GM Working on Buick Ampera. What's the Point?

A little while ago, GM managed to make an announcement which looks oddly similar to a footballer kicking his own left foot with his own right foot: sales of the Chevrolet Volt will start in Europe, despite the fact that the exact same car, with slightly different looks, will be marketed here under the name Opel Ampera.

Opel, as most of you already know, has been for years the source of inspiration for the Buick brand in the US. Buick takes, modifies a bit and then resells Opel models in the US and at times elsewhere under different names (eg. Opel Insignia = Buick Regal).

That strategy has worked so far for GM, as Opel's products, regardless of the name under which they sell, are reliable and have had a considerable impact on the company's sales. However, the rumor we heard today coming from Detroit, via Bloomberg, makes no sense whatsoever. (The same can be said about the Ampera-Volt decision in Europe).

Bloomberg says Buick is working on its own version of the Ampera (read only minor changes to the exterior, interior and possibly a more exhaustive equipment level), which will probably enter the market in 2013.

Now, from the perspective of a manufacturer who made a name for itself by trying to squeeze the most out of everything, selling the same plug-in hybrids, on the same market, under different names (if the Buick rumor is true, the same PHEV will sell under three different brands, Opel, Chevrolet and Buick) and with a different front end might make sense. For the buyers, analysts and pretty much everybody else who has a say in the matter, it doesn't. Except, of course, if they only plan to sell it in China, which is doubtful.

The Buick Ampera will sell, say the insiders, for a higher price than the Volt. It will offer, probably, nothing more in exchange for the extra cash. As Jim Hall, principal of 2953 Analytics, nicely puts it “The Volt is already well-equipped. It’s missing power seats and that’s about it. What else can you add to make it a premium car?”
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About the author: Daniel Patrascu
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Daniel loves writing (or so he claims), and he uses this skill to offer readers a "behind the scenes" look at the automotive industry. He also enjoys talking about space exploration and robots, because in his view the only way forward for humanity is away from this planet, in metal bodies.
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