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How the Chevy Volt Became a BMW

Stocks in this article: GM

I think that the former will be more likely. With BMW betting the company on the Chevy Volt drivetrain architecture, it is likely that this will bring the ultimate vindication for GM. It will be time for the Volt critics to cut their losses at that time.

It is worth reminding Volt watchers that the Chevy Volt has the highest customer satisfaction rating of any car in the U.S. market, according to Consumer Reports -- even higher than the Porsche 911. A record 93% of Volt owners would recommend the car, compared to 91% for the Porsche 911. Conversely, close to 99% of all people criticizing the Volt have never driven it.

And what would be the only car company with even higher respect and customer esteem than BMW? Yes, that would be Porsche.

Volt 2.0

But wait, there's more!

The BMW i8 will hit the market no later than the first half of 2014, which would be at least three years after the Chevy Volt hit the streets, in late 2010. What has GM done in the meantime? Been busy developing the Volt 2.0, that's what!

GM will be in a position to launch the Chevy Volt 2.0 and the Cadillac ELR, which is the two-door version with a more plush interior, also by early 2014. By the time the BMW i8 hits the market, the market leader -- GM -- should also hit the market with two improved Volt models: One Chevy version focused on cost reduction, and one Cadillac version focused on the luxury market.

Think iPad here. By the time competition arrived for the iPad, Apple (AAPL) launched the iPad 2. And we all know how that went. The early leader maintained its grip. GM most likely also has additional cars based on some tangent of the Volt platform in store for late 2013 or 2014. Can you imagine a Chevy Suburban, Cadillac Escalade and a minivan based on the Volt? All would be obvious hits in their respective segments.

What's the bottom line here? BMW's best engineers examined the Chevy Volt and concluded that it was going to be the car to beat. They were so desperate to copy it that they hired the chief project manager of the Volt to make it happen as quickly as possible. I think BMW's finest engineers know a little more about what makes the best car, than some U.S. pundit who has never even driven the Volt.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. And that's what will bring GM its ultimate form of Volt vindication, in 2014, just like everyone have been trying to imitate Apple's iPad for two years now.

At the time of publication, the author was long AAPL and TSLA, although positions may change at any time.

Anton Wahlman was a sell-side equity research analyst covering the communications technology industries from 1996 to 2008: UBS 1996-2002, Needham & Company 2002-2006, and ThinkEquity 2006-2008.

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