(Adds that name of car may change before sales begin)
By Rick Popely
CHICAGO, Feb 12 (Reuters) - General Motors Co said Thursday it will build a compact electric car at an assembly plant near Detroit, where it will invest $200 million for the project.
Alan Batey, GM’s North American president, said in a speech at the Chicago auto show that for now the compact is called the Bolt, but that name may change before it goes on sale.
The Chevrolet Bolt was shown as a concept vehicle at the Detroit auto show last month. It is designed to have a range of 200 miles, and will cost about $30,000 after tax breaks in the U.S. market.
GM’s announcement confirms a report last week by Reuters that the Bolt would be produced at the under-used Orion assembly plant in Michigan.
Batey said that some potential customers have been confused with the Bolt name that is similar to the Volt, a Chevrolet plug-in hybrid.
“It could go either way,” Batey said of the possible name change. “The vehicles are so different that when you get a customer into a Chevy showroom they’re not going to be confused about which product they’re looking at.”
The only electric car currently available with a 200-mile range is the Tesla Model S, which starts at $71,070 before tax credits for electric vehicles (EVs).
With a target price near $30,000, the Bolt would compete with electric cars such as the Nissan Motor Co Leaf, which has a range of less than 100 miles, and the similarly priced Tesla Inc Model 3, planned to debut in 2017.
Supplier sources told Reuters that Bolt production will start in October 2016 and sales would likely begin in early 2017. GM said the car will be available throughout the United States.
Batey did not specify when production or sales would start but said in his speech: “We’re putting the Bolt EV on a fast track to production.”
He also he thinks the Bolt, or whatever it ends up being called, could “shake up the status quo for electric vehicles.”
GM has not said where the car will be sold, but has said it is targeted for global production. China is the second-biggest market for Chevrolet. An Opel version in Europe will be built at Orion, sources said.
The Orion plant currently builds the Chevrolet Sonic and Buick Verano and is operating well below capacity. (Reporting by Rick Popely in Chicago; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Meredith Mazzilli)