Chevrolet Volt Could Wear a ‘Buick Velite’ Nametag in China

American Chevrolet Volt fans have long discussed how the quasi-upscale extended-range EV might have fared with a Buick badge instead of being branded as a bread-and-butter Chevrolet.

It appears the Chinese have gone beyond the discussion phase.

According to Chinese website Autohome, Shanghai GM gets it, and has pulled the strings to rename the Chevy Volt the Velite for a brand that is more prestigious and sells in higher volume in China.

While an announcement has yet to come from GM, things appear underway as the photo was reportedly taken at the Chinese agency that approves new vehicles before being sold (the Ministry of Cars).

Inside the Chevy with a Buick badge on it is the same 1.5-liter plug-in extended range electric powertrain, says Autohome. Electric range for the Chinese market is estimated at 100 kilometers (62 miles) — not far above the U.S. EPA rating of 53 miles for the Volt.

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Whether the Volt-based Buick would be produced domestically or imported from the U.S. is unclear. GM would save itself tariffs and hope to sell more units in places like Beijing where some wear gas masks to prevent toxic air from invading their lungs.

The company previously attempted to sell the imported first-gen Volt in China, but at $79,000 apiece, it was prohibitively expensive and did no favors for GM’s joint venture partners.

In naming the new Buick, GM apparently will not use its “Electra” nameplate, a traditional Buick name GM applied to trademark in 2012. According to Autohome, the actual name is still up in the air. The name begins with “V,” leading it to suggest Velite is the new name. “Velite” was once applied to a 2004 concept car, but this model shares no other similarities to it.

The second-generation Volt was designed at the behest of existing Volt owners despite sales being less than originally projected. Its revised drive unit/electric transmission was revised to make it simple to use the architecture for more hybrids, and potentially plug-in hybrids. The Malibu Hybrid was co-developed alongside it.

While the U.S. market second-generation Volt has not broken through previous sales barriers, it does represent an investment in GM’s electrified future, and China is its number one market.

GM was an early pioneer in opening up a U.S. presence with joint venture partners in China. Its Cadillac CT6 PHEV was also developed first for that market, and is slated for export back to the U.S.

Sharing the Volt’s wealth could fit with GM’s global plans. In a separate report last February, what were represented as spy photos of the Chevy Volt being developed for Europe were shown indicating the Ampera could be brought back despite assertions by GM to the contrary.

GM is in process of beating the band for its all-electric Bolt-based Ampera-e, but has not said if an Ampera based on the Volt would come. Alternatively, and going out on a limb, it has been speculated that the European-market Ampera seen in spy shots is actually bound for China, but this is anyone’s guess.

More clear is that the photo of a Volt with Buick badge sitting at the Chinese ministry indicates an extended-range electric Buick could be just a matter of time.