Nearly three years after General Motors (GM) unveiled the Chevrolet Volt as a concept vehicle, the resurgent automaker Tuesday took the wraps off the final production model that will begin shipping to dealers next month.

CEO Daniel Akerson said the Volt's introduction marked the beginning of the increasing electrification of the automobile. How fast and the extent to which the technology will be deployed will play out in coming years and decades, Akerson said during a celebratory event at the company's Hamtramck Assembly plant where the Volt is built, marking the vehicle's official introduction.

"I think 20, 30 years from now, we'll look back at this car it will be something maybe like the model T was in the early 1900s," Akerson told CNBC. "This is the first huge step."

GM said 200 cars available for retail sale have already been built and will be sold in markets targeted for the Volt's initial sale -- California, Connecticut, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Texas and Washington, D.C. The car carries a sticker price of $41,000 that can be reduced by a $7,5000 federal tax credit. Environmental Protection Agency estimates show the Volt is capable of achieving the equivalent of 93 mpg.

Plugs into Ordinary Household Outlets

In the world of vehicles that use some form of battery technology for propulsion, the Volt is unique. Unlike Toyota Motor's (TM) Prius, which relies on its gasoline engine to recharge its battery, the Volt can be plugged into an ordinary household outlet. And unlike Nissan Motors' (NSANY) Leaf, a pure electric vehicle, the Volt can travel vast distances, thanks to its gasoline engine, without having to recharge.

Still, as Akerson noted, the Volt is capable of operating solely as an electric-only powered vehicle. It was designed to go about 40 miles before its battery pack needs recharging. GM says that distance is within the range of most Americans' daily commutes.

GM CEO Senses a 'Game Changer'

GM has committed to building 10,000 Volts during its first year of production and increasing that number to 45,000 units in 2012. Asked if the company would consider building more than that number, Akerson said the company will be eyeing demand.

"I have a sense that this is going to be a ... game changer," he said. "And we have to be prepared to meet that." Akerson added that GM may need to be prepared to build as many as 135,000 Volts.

During the presentation, Akerson said GM would hire 1,000 additional engineers in the Detroit area to work on battery technology, with most of the positions to be created at its Warren technical center north of Detroit. The engineers will develop batteries for various applications, including future hybrid, electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

The commitment expands on the more than $700 million GM has invested in eight facilities in Michigan to support Volt production, GM said in a statement.

Tuesday's event also marked the return of Bob Lutz, who oversaw design at GM for more than eight years before being relegated to an advisory role in December 2009 by then-CEO Edward Whitacre and finally retiring in May. Lutz said the Volt has the potential to change GM's image to a more environmentally friendly one, especially among consumers on the country's East and West coasts, where American vehicles have long fallen out of favor.

Lutz credited GM's engineering staff for bringing the Volt concept to reality, saying that only GM, with its vast repository of technical skill, could pull off developing a vehicle as complex and innovative as the Volt.

Shares of the automaker, which had headed lower in early trading Tuesday on Wall Street, inched up shortly after the event concluded. At midday, GM stock was trading slightly higher, at $33.97 a share.

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We live in a country obsessed with oil and a gov't that has NO energy policy. With major oil spills in the gulf and Alaska, not sure oil is our enviromentlally friendly answer. It will run out eventually or the middle east countries will own us. Electricity comes from many renewable sources which we need to build on like hydro,nuclear, solar and the up and coming wind power. Hydrogen fuel cell power may also be a piece of the puzzle. Oil and coal will run out or become too costly to obtain. Lets see what Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf can do to solve a small piece of our transportation needs. Costly today, but like many new inventions, will become more affordable tomorrow.

November 30 2010 at 7:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

ponzi scheme. how much does it cost environmentally to create the electricity

November 30 2010 at 6:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Yes the Chevy Volt is expensive. But cutting edge technology usually is. What did the first computers cost, color TVs, cell phones? All were off the charts expensive but with sales volume and production efficiencies the costs came down. At least GM is trying to lead the pack in some new technology and not follow Asian competitors. Give them some credit, the company was a train wreck two years ago but looks like with new management and quality cars to be returning to industry leadership. Its easy to damn them but maybe just maybe they have learned their lessons. Americans have to hope they are successful so they can continue to payback the government bailout and continue to be one of the USA's largest direct and indirect sources of employment.

November 30 2010 at 3:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Hey GM jam this car in the middle of your cheeks

November 30 2010 at 2:42 PM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply

Too Expensive, Obama will subsidize, Obama does not have any $$$ either, if no subsidy then this car is a Pig..........too expensive and ahead of it's time. Who wants a expensive car if no bailout for it ? Dreamers are in charge at GM except in China........Roger Smith saved GM by moving to China, Roger Smith is a smart man...........M. Moore owes him an apology ! ! !

November 30 2010 at 1:34 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
Hello Carol

What no one is saying is what the other costs are to Americans for something like the Volt. Sure the cost and usage of gas will go down, but the cost of energy will likely spike higher since deregulation will cause electricity prices to explode in much of the country. And electrical plants uses coal which I support, but environmental wackos are making harder and more expensive to we are screwed any way you cut it. Gas and oil, or electricity and coal, certainly not a win-win as it is presented.

November 30 2010 at 1:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply