"flat-out lie to make things look better."
This is a devastating PR failure for GM. After the long and massive build-up for the Volt, and the swearing up and down that it was a "range extended EV", this makes GM look really desperate for public approval, and ready to play semantic games to look better than they really are.
A true, pure, "range extended electric vehicle" would have no mechanical torque path from the engine to the wheels, in the minds of the EV boosters and automotive bloggers. To electric car fans, the Volt was just demoted to a plug-in gasoline hybrid, with a large electric reserve, but a PHEV nonetheless. The Volt will now be compared not with the Nissan Leaf, but with the Prius plug-in. And when Ford brings out its electric Focus, it will be able to claim the first new American all-electric sedan.
What GM did was take a similar architecture to the Prius or Ford hybrid, and do two things--add a much larger battery pack, and tune the software so that the car "chooses not to" use its gasoline engine for propulsion except for rare circumstances. So it is a PHEV trained to act more like an EV than an HEV.
The question now is, how will the public react? Will they listen to the bloggers and EV enthusiasts, that Volt is not literally an all electric vehicle, or will they agree with GM, that since it runs almost all the time on only on electric torque, it is effectively a range extended EV?