New Volt likely to be first of many GM plug-in hybrids

New Volt likely to be first of many GM plug-in hybrids

General Motors' 100th anniversary celebrations were capped with what the company thinks is the crowning achievement of its first century in business, and the guiding light for the start of the second. But that's not stopping them from moving right past it to the next new thing - a family of vehicles based around the same core technology.

This isn't the first time GM has spoken of vehicles related to, but not quite like, the Volt. The technology that underpins the car is called E-Flex, and it is expected to find its way into a number of different vehicle segments and GM brands.

Opel will be among the first to get the technology, with the European brand being sufficiently premium-minded to justify the higher prices that will accompany the technology. In addition, making the E-Flex technology - the core powertrain and battery elements found in the Volt - available across a wider number of body styles will make it easier to suit the platform to multiple markets, reports CNN Money. In Europe, for instance, hatchbacks and wagons are preferred to sedans, contrary to traditional American tastes.

Building up what is essentially a new family of vehicles around the Volt platform overseas could eventually return dividends in the U.S. in the form of other cars suited to sale under GM's other brands, like Cadillac, Pontiac or Saturn. Considering Saturn's close arrangement with Opel, it is perhaps the most likely candidate to get a modified E-Flex vehicle.

GM isn't the first company to come up with such an approach, however. Toyota has been quietly working on a family of cars centered around its pioneering Prius hybrid for quite some time.

In fact, the company hinted again that it is considering doing an entire Prius brand just this week, saying there is a 'definite desire' within the company to expand the Prius brand-name and Toyota's hybrid offerings.

That Toyota is considering a similar move indicates GM may have a good handle on the dynamics of hybrid technology and marketing, since the Japanese giant has already proven it does. Nevertheless, all the talk of the GM E-Flex expansion program is at this point only preliminary - nothing firm has been committed to by the company's executives, at least publicly. Whether that's because the Volt is still in its infancy, a full two years from its official sales debut, or simply a matter of corporate confidentiality, with plans already secretly in place, is unclear.

As GM's plans for the E-Flex platform become clearer, the company's statements about the Volt being the future of the company are beginning to make more objective sense. It's unlikely that a car that is expected to lose money on every example despite a retail price that has ballooned to an expected $40,000 or more could bear the burden of an entire organization's advancement into the future, but as the standard bearer for technology, innovation and pioneering the E-Flex platform, the Volt might just be the savior GM needs.