North American Car of the Year, Chevrolet Volt will spawn a wider range of plug-in hybrid GM vehicles.

General Motors will apply the technology used in its plug-in hybrid Chevrolet Volt (just announced as North America’s Car of the Year) to a range of future vehicles, potentially including a Cadillac SRX plug-in, Chief Executive Daniel Akerson said.

“Will we let ourselves become casualties of change or will we lead it?” Akerson said in a speech at the Automotive News World Congress. “That's why the Chevy Volt is so important. It's not another me-too vehicle.”

Akerson has driven GM more aggressively toward electric vehicles since becoming CEO in September, a strategic area where he has left an immediate mark, executives have said.

The push has centered on rolling out the plug-in hybrid technology GM developed for the Volt in a broader range of vehicles to recoup its investment in it more quickly.

Although the Volt is priced at R280 000 in the U.S., the award-winning vehicle is a money-losing proposition for GM now because of the high costs the automaker incurred during its 4-year dash to bring the car to the market, GM executives have said.

Akerson said he hoped the Volt could be profitable in the next 3 years.

He also told reporters after the speech that production of the Volt would likely top 25 000 units in 2011, up sharply from an initial forecast closer to 10 000.

Akerson also said it was “likely” that a Cadillac SRX plug-in could be introduced. The move to launch a plug-in Cadillac could also allow GM to extend what its executives see as a crucial lead over Toyota.

Over time, GM expects to have an electrified vehicle for each of its four U.S. brands - Chevy, Cadillac, Buick and GMC, Akerson said.

A version of the Volt will be sold in Europe as the Opel Ampera is scheduled to go on sale in the fourth quarter.

GM is also developing a crossover that could use the Volt technology, Akerson said. That would be based on the Chevy Orlando sold in Europe, a person familiar with the plan said.

The GM future product plan also includes a pure electric car that would compete against the Nissan Leaf and the upcoming electric Ford Focus, the person said.

GM's announced its aim of rolling out more models with electric car technology came as its larger rival Toyota Motor Corp used the Detroit auto show to unveil a family of cars based on its Prius hybrid.

Akerson had taken a potshot at the Prius last year, telling reporters that many in GM regarded it as a “geekmobile.”

The Volt has a 400-pound lithium-ion battery to provide an electric-only range of 25 to 50 miles. After the battery is depleted, a 1.4-liter gasoline engine provides power.

GM believes that “extended-range electric vehicle technology” will be more popular with consumers than pure electric vehicles because of the additional range provided by the traditional combustion engine. -Reuters