General Motors is expanding the geographic footprint of the Chevy Volt, but the relatively small number of Volts slated to emerge from factories in the next two years will make them something of a collector's item.

The company today said that Austin, Texas and New York City will be target markets along with California for the Volt when it launches later this year. GM will expand the Volt market in early 2011 to the entire state of Texas and will also start selling the car in New York State, New Jersey and Connecticut, said Tony DiSalle, Chevrolet Volt Marketing Director, during an online chat with reporters. The car will then be available in all 50 states within 12 to 18 months of the initial launch, while cars will start to trickle into Canada next year.  

"Launch markets take us through the 2011 model run," he said. Initial production begins in late 2010, he added, and the first cars will come out at the end of this year.

To celebrate the expansion, drivers will take a 1,776-mile drive from Austin Texas to New York City. The caravan will arrive on July 4 to underscore the theme of energy independence. (Editor's note: this also approximates the bus trip Jon Voight took in Midnight Cowboy.)

The road trip will also underscore how the plug-in hybrid Volt provides much more range flexibility over fully electric cars. Electric cars can go 100 miles to 250 miles on a single charge. The Volt can go 40 miles on electricity alone, 400 miles on a combination of gas and electricity, and can get back on the freeway quick by filling up at a gas station. While customers will be encouraged to get home charging stations, they won't be required to install one to get a car. See our video of the Volt here:

"You can drive the Chevy Volt across the country without any tethering or constraints to a home charging base," he said.

Then there are the volumes. GM will produce only 10,000 Volts through 2011 and only 30,000 more in 2012. Nissan will produce 50,000 all-electric Leafs in the first year of production and expand, and even produce the car in the U.S., in 2012. Production starts in September.

Other notes:

--GM has rolled out a dealer program. To sell the Volt, dealers need to keep a demonstration unit on their lots and take special education courses. Dealers not qualified to be Volt dealers can also be trained on Volt service.

--GM does not have a waiting list. Individual dealers, however, can start lists of their own.

--The Volt will come in six colors, including gray.

--DiSalle emphasized that the gas generator/engine does not charge the battery. It helps the battery sustain a charge. The battery gets recharged by getting plugged in or through regenerative braking.

--Like other car makers, GM promises that the experience will be different than a gas car.

"Electric motors have unique characteristics... The acceleration is very peppy. The drive experience is...almost a premium drive experience," he said. "There is no better marketing tool for the Volt than the Volt itself."