The current-generation Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid may acquire a new identity for the Chinese market—and perhaps even a new design previewed by a China-only concept car.
General Motors sold the first-generation Volt under different brands in various international markets.
So far it hasn't continued that practice with the second-generation version, which went on sale in the U.S. earlier this year.
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But according to a report from Chinese car website Autohome (via Autoverdict), GM may re-badge the current-generation Volt as the Buick Velite for sale in China.
The report includes photos of the alleged Buick-badged Volt, purportedly from the Chinese Ministry of Cars, a regulatory agency that manages the approval of new models for sale in China.
Aside from Buick badges, styling appears largely similar to the U.S.-market Volt.
2017 Chevrolet Volt
UPDATE 3 (Dec 3): At the 2016 Guangzhou auto show two weeks ago, GM China unveiled its Buick Velite Concept (though no technical details were released).
The plug-in hybrid concept car features a low, aerodynamic hatchback shape, similar to that of a Toyota Prius or Hyundai Ioniq.
The company says the car's flowing lines and sculpted rippling curves were influenced by flowing water, and reflect a new design language for Buick.
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Wide matrix LED headlights and a short but very wide version of Buick's waterfall grille are said to indicate future styling themes for the brand.
Either the Velite concept reflects a new vehicle using Volt underpinnings, or it's a design exercise for Buick, and the Velite name will be applied to the existing Volt.
Any production version of the Velite would also likely use the same powertrain as the Volt, which includes a 1.5-liter 4-cylinder gasoline engine and a T-shaped, 18.4-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack.
Buick Velite concept, 2016 Guangzhou auto show
UPDATE 2 (Nov 14): The week before the show, a teaser shot for the Velite concept appeared. Its purpose, said GM China, was to mark the introduction of a new Buick Blue brand for electrified vehicles in China.
The Buick Velite name was first used on a concept car that debuted at the 2004 New York Auto Show.
That car—a convertible powered by a 3.6-liter V-6 and 6-speed automatic transmission—was far removed from a plug-in hybrid hatchback.
But selling the Volt in China as a Buick makes sense, given that brand's popularity in the world's largest auto market.
Buick Velite concept
Buick sells far more vehicles in China than it does in the U.S., and its Chinese lineup gets a more varied array of vehicles than does its U.S. lineup—and far more attention from product planners.
The Envision crossover went on sale in China well before its U.S. launch this year.
China also gets a Buick LaCrosse Hybrid that isn't available here, using a powertrain identical to that of the U.S.-market Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid.
While it was never sold as a Buick, the first-generation Volt was sold as the Opel Ampera in continental Europe, and as the Vauxhall Ampera in the U.K.
It was also sold as the Holden Volt in Australia and New Zealand. GM has not confirmed plans to revive any of these naming schemes for the current-generation Volt.
2013 Holden Volt with Better Place Charge Spot and executives from both companies
UPDATE 1: We reached out to GM before this article was published. Elizabeth Winter, from the company's global advanced-technology communications group, later sent the following statement:
Over the next five years, we will roll out more than 10 New Energy Vehicles in China, including several models for Buick. That includes full hybrids, plug-in hybrids, extended-range electrics, and more. We are not announcing anything further at this time.
In other words, GM neither confirms nor denies the existence of the Buick Velite-badged Chevy Volt to be sold in China that was filed with the Chinese Ministry of Cars.
[hat tip: Brian Henderson]