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There’s no question, it’s been a rough couple of years for General Motors. But, two recent showings at the Detroit Auto Show could signal a new direction for GM public relations … and public sentiment.

First, GM unveiled its “New and Improved” Chevrolet Volt. This next generation of GM’s signature plug-in hybrid vehicle received less hype at the show, but should prove to be a strong contender in an increasingly crowded – and somewhat convoluted – market segment.

The most obvious change is in the Volt’s appearance. Critics are calling the new look “softer and more conventional,” which should be a selling point for those who want a hybrid but don’t want that “electric car look.” Under the hood the Volt will offer an improved drive system, better battery pack and more efficient gasoline engine. Currently, the Volt can travel up to 35 miles before switching from electric to gas. According to released specs, the new Volt will travel up to 50 miles before switching over to gas. GM sets the estimated MPG at roughly 41, after the electric charge runs out. That’s an increase over the current 37 mpg estimates.

But perhaps the best improvement in the Volt is in passenger room. A smaller battery will allow three passengers to fit, more or less comfortably, in the rear seat.

The second eye catcher is the small, all-electric Chevrolet Bolt. While the Bolt is currently just a concept car, the prototype definitely turned some heads and engaged interest for GM’s future. General Motors spokespeople said the company plans to begin retailing the Bolt in 2017. Made of aluminum, magnesium and carbon fiber, the Bolt is a lightweight entry into the subcompact marketplace. According to current specs, the car will have a 200-mile driving range on a full charge and come with a $30,000 price tag (after electric car tax incentives). Embattled and long suffering GM Chief Executive Mary Barra called the Bold “a real game changer.”

Industry watchdogs are already giving the Bolt a thumbs up, saying GM should reap serious benefits from the brand. Good news for GM, and for the American auto industry as a whole.

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