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MG tours GM's Volt design studio

by Drew Johnson

While in town for the Detroit Auto Show, MG was given an exclusive opportunity to tour the Chevrolet Volt design studio just outside of the Motor City in Warren, Michigan. While we were unable to snap any photos, we were brought up-to-date on the Volt's progress by Bob Boniface -- Director of General Motors Advanced Design Studio and the man responsible for the Volt's design.

Because the Chevrolet Volt is so important to General Motors -- one of the Volt's posted mission statements is to "radically shift GM's public perception" -- it was given its own design studio back in June. GM transformed a seldom used auditorium in its Advanced Design Studio into the hub for Volt design. On the stage that once played host to musical acts and U.S. presidents, several designers now work diligently on finishing the Volt's design. In all, 45 designers, sculptors and engineers are working exclusively on the Volt's design.

The main floor of the studio is where the Volt comes to life. GM has installed a machine to carve the Volt out of clay and one finished version stands on the floor covered by a sheet. In the back corner of the studio, designer work on the Volt's interior. The surrounding walls are covered in different Volt designs and inspiring images -- such as Apple computers and blue skies.

One of the first things Mr. Boniface showed us was actually the front end of a pre-production Volt. Compared to the show car, the current design of the Volt is much more rounded and fluid. The concept's rough edges have been rounded out and the car's headlights look similar to the ones found on the Saab Turbo X, although a bit more stylized. Futuristic fog lights flank a wide lower grille, and the car has very few air inlets considering its electric powertrain. The upper grille is signature Chevrolet, featuring the brand's center bar and bow tie symbol.

MG was also given a sneak peak at the rear of the Volt. Unlike the front, the Volt's rear was actually kept fairly similar to the concept car. Its edges are sharper than the ones found on the front of the car -- for aerodynamic reasons -- and the show car's clear section between the taillights will make it to the production model.

According to Boniface, the Volt's exterior is in its final stages. "General Motors hasn't officially announced the Volt as a production vehicle, but if they did tomorrow, we'd be ready to go," he said.

The interior, however, is lagging slightly behind the exterior. The overall dash design is nearly finished, but the gauge cluster and center stack are still being revised. The dash follows the same twin-cockpit design theme that can be found in the new Malibu and will likely feature a two-tone option. The center stack's design is still fluid, but look for the production model to have a high-mounted gear shifter with a computer-like power button.

One of the aforementioned Volt designs adorning the walls revealed one of the Volt's yet-to-be disclosed design cues. A clear roof will make it to production and will have a shade-changing function. The driver will be able to choose opacity settings from clear to completely dark.

The Volt's dropped belt line will also see production, although probably not as a clear section. The Volt is tentatively schedule for ten colors, including the concept's Volt green.

As long as the battery development keeps on track, Boniface says the Volt should make its sales target of November of 2010 with a price "south of $30,000." Stay tuned.

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