General Motors is letting the public know that, well, it's not about to let the public know anything else about the next-generation Chevrolet Volt. But the automaker is willing to talk about its camouflaging process for upcoming versions of the extended-range plug-in. So it's a half-hearted secret, at best.

GM actually has a "camouflage engineer" charged with creating ways to disguise the styling of new vehicles. In the Volt's case, the company is applying black and white swirly color patterns on top of the materials, such as plastics, vinyl and foam, that are used liberally across the body.

It's all part of a teaser campaign that started last month with pictures of part the 2016 Volt. Earlier this month, GM said it was keeping track of Volt drivers' habits as it works on the next-gen model. The company noted that more than four out of five trips are being made in all-electric driving mode, and that 60 percent of Volt owners use a plain-old 100-volt outlet to recharge their cars.

The car is slated to make its global debut at Detroit's North American International Auto Show next January, and the early word is that performance and all-electric range will be improved (we should hope so). The car will also be sleeker. By how much, we can't tell yet, because of those darn swirly patterns. GM's got more non-details in its press release below.
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Engineers charged with hiding styling while vehicle testing proceeds in public

DETROIT – The styling of the next-generation Chevrolet Volt is one of the automotive world's best-kept secrets. Keeping customers and media eager to see the successor to the groundbreaking original at bay until the new Volt debuts at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January is tricky business.

First, it is engineers, not designers, who are charged with creating camouflage that balances styling secrecy with the need to validate the Volt and its systems in public.

"If it were up to me it would be a shoebox driving down the road," said Lionel Perkins, GM camouflage engineer. "The design team wants us to cover more of the vehicle and the engineering team needs to have enough of the vehicle's weight and aero exposed so that the tests in the development process are consistent with the product that will come to market."

The engineers responsible for the "cool" designs covering the car might deserve style points but their efforts are intended strictly to hide the metal beneath.

Some of the tricks of the trade:

Black and white patterns – The color scheme creates a shadow that hides vehicle design elements.
3D – Layered camouflage throws off onlookers, but has to be applied without interrupting airflow around the car.
Swirls – In the old days of car camouflage, the design relied mainly on a grid pattern, but over the years engineers discovered that girds are difficult to realign if a piece is removed to make a change to the car. Swirl patterns better hide such developments.
Bubble wrap – Camouflage can be made from many different materials including plastics, vinyl and foam. Good, old bubble wrap is a lightweight, easily attachable three-dimensional material used to confuse prying eyes.
The camouflage package on the next-generation Volt was started six months in advance of early development. Every vehicle is different and tricks are constantly updated to keep spy photographers and the curious guessing.

"Each car is unique. We are like a dress maker, and the car is our model," said Perkins. "No two models are the same. We need to make the right dress that fits the body we are dealing with."

Founded in 1911 in Detroit, Chevrolet is now one of the world's largest car brands, doing business in more than 140 countries and selling more than 4.9 million cars and trucks a year. Chevrolet provides customers with fuel-efficient vehicles that feature spirited performance, expressive design, and high quality. More information on Chevrolet models can be found at www.chevrolet.com.


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