When the first-generation Chevrolet Volt launched at the tail end of 2011, it became General Motors’ first plug-in vehicle since the much-missed EV1. And while it didn’t have anywhere near the all-electric range or futuristic charms of that two-seat coupe, it drummed up quite a interest in its home market of North America. Vying for position as the world’s number one plug-in car against its nearest rival the Nissan LEAF, its popularity in the U.S. and Canada seemed to suggest that it would be worth GM’s while to expand the Volt’s availability elsewhere in the world, specifically into Europe and Australia.
But despite rebadging the Chevrolet Volt as the Opel Ampera in mainland Europe, the Vauxhall Ampera in the UK and the Holden Volt in Australia, buyers didn’t fall for the Volt as they had done in the U.S. While the Ampera fared reasonably well at first, its size and limited visibility didn’t play well with tight European roads and tiny side streets in ancient cities. The Volt, sold alongside the Ampera in some European countries, fared even worse, let down by poor after sales and service availability. Meanwhile, many Australians, used to powerful V-6 engines and lacking any charging infrastructure outside major cities, viewed the Holden Volt as little more than a toy.
Almost as quietly as they had entered their respective markets, the various siblings to the Chevrolet Volt across the world were pulled from sale last year at the same time that GM ended production of the first-generation Volt in the U.S. With the 2016 Chevrolet Volt already planned to take its place, GM was adamant the new model would be a North America only model, skipping the Volt in Europe and confirming the new Volt would be made in left-hand drive only configuration.
Yet photos obtained by automotive spy shot specialist Brian Williams (via Electrek )of a semi-camouflaged 2016 Volt wearing a redesigned front and rear bumper suggest GM has changed its mind on the subject — and is preparing an European sibling, most likely branded the Ampera — for market launch.
Given as the only spy shots we use on our site are ones we’ve been given (our small editorial budget can’t stretch to paying the kind of prices that most spy shots are sold for) you’ll have to follow this link to view them for yourself in a separate window on photo sharing site Smugmug.
As you’ll note, the car is unmistakably a Volt in its overall shape and design, from the angled headlights through to the charge port door on the driver-side front wing. Look a little close however, and you’ll note that there are some interesting changes that make us think that despite its Michigan manufacturer plates, this car isn’t a car we’ll see in North America.
For a start, there’s the difference in styling at the front end. While the hood line is the same as the production 2016 Volt, the front bumper is completely different, replacing the silver-coloured accent of the Volt with a sweeping grille complete with a covered up but unmistakably circular badge. It’s most certainly not the bowtie found on every Chevrolet. Add to that the all three of GM’s Holden, Opel and Vauxhall brands use a circular badge, and we think you’ll agree that this is particularly compelling evidence.
Then there are those lower daytime running lights. While the Production Volt has its daytime running lights oriented so that they are taller than they are wide, these spy shots clearly show a car with daytime running lights that are roughly parallel to the ground, lying not vertical but horizontal.
At the other end of the car, the rear reflectors get the opposite treatment. While the rear reflectors on the North American 2016 Volt are oriented to lie parallel to the road, the reflectors on this particular car are placed at a 30-40 degree angle to the vertical. Like the front, the name badge has been conveniently hidden too, suggesting GM doesn’t want anyone spying an unusual badge on the public roads.
There’s one more thing too: on the rear left quarter of the rear bumper, there’s a small round light that those in Europe will recognise as a rear fog lamp. Not required in North America, rear fog lights have been mandatory on all European cars since the 1970s, and its placement on this car would match a vehicle being tested for left-hand drive Europe.
There are some things that go against this theory however. Those front lights — with their amber position lights at each top corner — are U.S. spec, not European spec. And this car appears to be missing the side-repeater indicators (which we note can be built into the mirror housings) which are required by European law.
Despite these two niggles the evidence for a European version of the Volt does seem to be compulsive. But it’s far from confirmed — and we’ve not been able to confirm it with GM at the time of writing.
While we’ve heard several rumors suggesting a GM range-extended electric vehicle was on the way for Europe in the past six months or so, we had understood that it would be a smaller car to the existing Volt, designed specifically for European buyers who prefer smaller, more agile cars.
As always, we’ll let you know when we have more information. In the meantime, we’d like to know what you’d think of a European (and Australian) market version of the Volt coming to a dealer near you. Would you want one? How much would you pay? And do you think it would be better received than the first-generation Volt?
Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.
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