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UK to get Vauxhall Ampera a year after the rest of Europe

Euro Volt unveiled at Geneva Motor Show

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'Leccy Tech General Motors Europe boss Carl-Peter Forster this week finally took the wraps off the final design of the Opel Ampera - aka the Chevrolet Volt - range-extended electric vehicle.

GM Ampera

GM's Ampera: Opel favoured over Vauxhall?

Everything looks much as we expected from the various teaser shots that have been circulating for the past few weeks. Reg Hardware was, however, pleased to see what look like rather more upmarket dashboard materials than those seen in the Volt.

Technical specs - for those of you who have been on a remote desert island for the last year - remain as per the Volt. So you'll get a rechargeable 16kWh lithium-ion battery back and a 1.4l cylinder petrol engine connected to a 53kW generator, either of which can drive the electric motor that turns the front wheels. The fully charged battery pack should be good for 40 miles of driving before the petrol engine kicks in.

Any flies in the ointment? Well, it was revealed that while the US will get the Volt in late 2010 and continental Europe will get the Opel Ampera in late 2011, it looks like the UK won't get a right-hand drive Vauxhall Ampera until sometime in 2012.

GM Ampera

France, Germany etc in 2011, UK in 2012

Perhaps that shouldn't come as too much of as a shock since 2012 has long been known to be the scheduled release date for the right-hand drive Holden Volt in Australia.

But the Oz street date notwithstanding it's still tough to make sense of GM's delay in keeping those of us who drive on the right side of the road – the left – waiting for so long. The Volt/Ampera is based on GM's Delta II global platform that will underpin a host of models including the 2010 Opel/Vauxhall Astra – a model that most certainly will appear in left- and right-hand drive form simultaneously.

So a run-of-the-mill hatchback warrants simultaneous release but a car that shares the same platform, is heralded by its maker as the Next Big Thing and is one of the reasons GM is telling me, you and assorted other tax payers across two continents to put their hands in their pockets to stop it going tits up will take 18-odd months to get to the UK and Australia?

GM Ampera

Better styling than the Americans get, though

True, the Astra will outsell the Ampera by a huge margin, but we still reckon that this is the sort of mushy thinking that got GM into its current mess to begin with.

Of course, all those European dates presuppose that General Motors and the German federal and state governments can come to some sort of agreement on the future of Opel.

Both GM in the US and Opel in Germany have their hands out for major state financial assistance - €3.3bn (£2.9bn/$4.15bn) in the case of Opel - but the US Federal government is adamant that money given to GM stays in the US, while the powers that be in Germany are, not unreasonably, saying the same for Germany.

The answer is clearly some sort of re-structuring in the relationship between GM and Opel but that is more easily said than done. ®

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