* Volt consumer production seen in early November
* GM sees production of up to 15,000 Volts in 2011
* GM expects EPA rating on Volt within a month
DETROIT, Oct 14 (Reuters) - General Motors [GM.UL] could build up to 15,000 Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric vehicles in 2011 and four times that number the following year, an executive in charge of the Volt line said on Thursday.
GM also expects to receive a mileage certification for the Volt from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency within a month as the U.S. automaker prepares for consumer production of the vehicle in early November, Doug Parks, the global vehicle line executive for the Volt, told reporters.
The Volt has been the centerpiece of GM’s effort to reinvent its lineup and the start of production is expected within days of a planned initial public stock offering that would allow the U.S. government to reduce its stake in the automaker.
Parks said GM is “right on track” to begin production in early to mid-November, followed by up to two weeks of testing before the cars can be shipped to dealers, a process that can take 10 days.
“We will build maybe 10,000 to 15,000 cars in 2011 and starting in 2012 we will be at this maximum rate of 60,000,” Parks said, adding that GM could increase production capacity in 2012 to 2013 if demand is much higher than expected.
“It takes time to install all this battery capacity,” Parks said on the sidelines of a Center for Automotive Research conference on vehicle electrification. “We don’t have any really firm plans yet, but we are flexible.”
GM earlier this week defended the Volt from criticism that the car acted more like a traditional gasoline-electric hybrid vehicle such as the Toyota Prius than the automaker has been promoting over the past four years.
Parks said GM has been working with U.S. regulators almost every day to complete a fuel economy rating for the Volt because of its combination of running on battery power for a varied distance with a small gasoline engine that provides power to electric motors after the battery is depleted.
“We are about a month away from knowing the hard numbers.”
The GM label likely will include a reference to electric-only operation, a miles-per-gallon from operating with the gasoline engine after the battery is depleted and possibly a combination of blending the ranges, GM has said.
GM has been referencing a fully electric range at 25 miles to 50 miles depending on how the vehicle is driven. Parks believes the EPA certification will be fairly close to the 40 mile range estimate GM has framed over the past few years.
“I don’t know that it will be dramatically different than 40, but I believe a lot of people will get way more than the label,” Parks said. (Reporting by David Bailey. Editing by Robert MacMillan)