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by George Skentzos

General Motors has in recent times become synonymous with big-displacement petrol guzzlers, and with fuel prices hitting record highs, it has begun to take its toll with dwindling sales across its low-mpg range.

In order to change its image, the brand plans to turn over a new leaf by streamlining the release of its production version of the heavily promoted plug-in Chevrolet Volt.

General Motors plans to complete its production version by as early as August to be unveiled on the world stage by September to coincide with the automakers 100th Anniversary of its founding.

Following GM stocks hitting a 54-year low in the past week, the centennial launch of the Volt is aimed at shifting the focus of its investors and consumers from the current sales slump and moving toward the development of more fuel-efficient vehicles.

The campaign trail is set to begin with a very special cameo by the Volt along with many other GM cars in the upcoming blockbuster Transformers sequel scheduled for release next year, the same platform which launch the concept version of the yet-to-be-released Camaro in 2007.

The Volt is designed to achieve a range of roughly 64km on a lithium-ion battery pack that can be recharged at a standard electric outlet.

As well as capturing energy from braking, the Volt will also incorporate an on-board engine to power the battery on longer trips.

GM is currently in a race with Toyota to be the first to introduce a plug-in car to the marketplace, and is currently in negotiations with various suppliers to provide the all-important lithium-ion battery.

Korea’s LG Chem – who will provide the batteries for Hyundai’s LPG hybrid – and German auto parts supplier Continental AG are the front runners competing for the Volt battery contract.