Special Coverage

Paris
Auto Show

PARIS – Adam Opel GmbH may be forced to play politics next year, as governments are pressuring the auto maker for preferential treatment when the Opel Ampera extended-range electric vehicle makes its debut.

“We’re just developing that (rollout) strategy,” CEO Nick Reilly says when asked if Opel will mirror Chevrolet’s introduction of the Volt, the Ampera’s European-market cousin.

The Volt will roll out gradually this fall in selected markets such as California, New York and Washington, D.C.

“The easiest thing to say is, ‘Yes, we’ll do it in three or four markets to start with,’” Reilly says here at the auto show. “But there’s not a market that doesn’t want it.”

And the clamor is not coming just from Opel dealers.

“Governments are telling us, too,” he tells journalists during a wide-ranging discussion. “It’s a nice position to be in.”

Against a backdrop of ever-increasing concern over carbon-dioxide emissions, regional and local governments are expected to place orders for the new EV.

“There will be, obviously, some retail people who will want to have a vehicle like that as soon as we can get it,” Reilly says. “But it’s going to be quite expensive to start off.”

Opel has indicated the Ampera’s sticker will be in the €28,000 ($35,460) range.

The Volt will start at $41,000. But buyers are eligible to receive a $7,500 tax credit.

The Ampera’s production launch in November 2011 will see just a trickle of units, double-digits or the low hundreds.

“If you look at the first full year, 2012, I think it will be 6,000 to 8,000,” Reilly adds.

Volt volume has been tagged at about 10,000 units for 2011, its first full year of production.

Initially, both cars will be assembled at General Motors Co.’s plant in Hamtramck, MI, just outside Detroit. Plans are to shift Ampera production to Europe later, with Opel’s Ellesmere Port, U.K., plant a strong candidate to land the work.

The Ampera, unveiled last year at the Frankfurt auto show, also was on display here.

emayne@wardsauto.com