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Holden’s Volt draws nearer

Confirmed: Chev Volt made headlines in Sydney but details remain sketchy.

Holden announces the Chevrolet Volt is three years away from Australian shores

14 Oct 2008

GM HOLDEN has broken its previously unwavering policy not to comment on future product by promising that General Motors’ Chevrolet-badged Volt plug-in hybrid will go on sale in Australia in 2012, but it remains steadfastly tight-lipped when it comes to further details.

“I am truly excited to host what is one of the most significant developments in motor vehicle history since the invention of the internal combustion engine,” said GM Holden chairman and managing director Mark Reuss, at the Australian International Motor Show opening in Sydney on Thursday (October 9).

“And the big news I'm here to tell you today is that it's coming here to Australia, 2012.”

The Chevrolet Volt is due to be produced in left-hand drive US-specification guise from late 2010 at GM’s Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant and is now due on sale here two years later after Mr Reuss confirmed the Volt for Australia in 2012 following an apparent 11th-hour confirmation.

“We’ve been working on it on a global basis at GM for a while,” he said. “We’ll roll it our in left-hand drive in the States first, then to global markets.

“This is a brand-new technology… so we’re going to roll this out in a very strategic way. In terms of new technology we can’t physically roll it all out at the same time anyway from a production stand-point. It will be a very staged rollout to targeted markets,” he said.

Asked if Australia’s 2012 on-sale timing was achievable, Mr Reuss said: “You know, obviously we’re leveraging a car that’s going into production in the US first, so just like everyone else we’re dependent on our core company and our capability to deliver the product in the timelines that we’ve outlined and right now we’re on track.

“That’s all I can say. I can’t predict something I don’t know about either. We’re fighting for the capacity and it’s something we’re fighting very hard to have.”

13 center imageLeft Chevrolet Volt, and GM Holden chairman and managing director Mark Reuss standing with new Commodore SS AFM.

Mr Reuss became combative when asked if right-hand drive production had been confirmed for the Volt, saying: “If you guys are really paying attention it was confirmed at a different place in a different venue - not for Australia but a right-hand drive version”.

The Volt was designed as a global car from the outset and has been earmarked for key right-hand rive markets including the UK and Japan. As GoAuto reported exclusively in March, GM’s product development chief Bob Lutz has already confirmed it will be sold in Australia, but GM is yet to reveal when RHD production will commence.

“It is being engineered in right-hand drive, left-hand drive and is being developed to meet all safety standards, pedestrian-protection requirements, exterior and interior protrusion – in other words, worldwide requirements are being taken into account, so it will, I’m sure, be sold in Australia,” Mr Lutz told GoAuto in March.

Mr Reuss said his company had not decided whether to rebadge the Volt as a Holden in Australia or whether to retain its international moniker as the Chevrolet Volt, as part of a new range of Chevrolet models that some industry sources have speculated could include the Daewoo-built Barina, Viva/Cruze, Epica and Captiva, which may be sold alongside Holden’s homegrown Commodore-based line-up and imported European models like the Astra and Insignia.

“(I) Haven’t made any of those calls. I honestly haven’t… I’ve been very concentrated on getting the car and the rest of the EcoLine strategy in place with Holden.

“I’ve been concentrated on getting the car here, to be honest, so I guess I don’t have a preference or a deep thought on that one right now, but we’re going to work on that with our dealer body quite frankly. We’ve had no discussion on how we will badge it.

“It was developed as a Chevrolet obviously from a corporate standpoint and Chevrolet will roll this technology out globally as a global brand.”

Asked if Holden could follow the lead of UK’s Vauxhall and Europe’s Opel brands by lobbying to put their own brand names on the car, Mr Reuss said there was no parallel.

“It’s a big jump, especially when the call as to what badge we put on this car lies here. We haven’t had that discussion yet. It’s a big, big leap what you just said. I wouldn’t write that. We’re a different region to Europe, so we’ve got to decide what’s right for the company here.

“Again, none of those discussions have taken place, so I’ll leave that up to you,” he said.

Mr Reuss said the Volt was far from a marketing exercise for Holden. “The car we’ll be introducing is a genuine production car with production volumes, absolutely. We have a business case but I’m not going to discuss the business case today.”

But he wouldn’t reveal future opportunities for the Volt platform, and refused to be drawn on whether the five-door mid-sized sedan was sustainable as a single model.

“You know, this isn’t… Some of the questions you’re asking are sure to indicate that maybe… if you looked at a typical car launch you’d ask the questions that you’re asking.

“The Volt platform from a technology standpoint is a very long-term idea for General Motors, and so long-term ideas on platforms with a lot of technology shouldn’t be sub-optimised for instant business decisions in any one place, so we’re looking at this from a corporate standpoint as a very long-range technology play for GM and we’re going to leverage that in any way we can.

“Any time you design and engineer a global car you think about those things, okay? Have we designed it and made a decision that we’re going to do it? No, but the flexibility of a new car platform always incorporates flexibility around different variants.

“It would be an incredibly bad decision to design any new platform or car that doesn’t have flexibility to do that. We’re working pretty hard on the technology right now,” he said.

Mr Reuss would not comment on where the Volt would fit into the Holden range or otherwise in terms of price.

“This is so dynamic right now I have no pricing comments right now. I don’t know what else to tell you. I’m trying to tell you we’ve got something pretty cool and that’s about all. I haven’t played any of those scenarios out in my head,” he said.

Indicating just how dynamic the car’s existence is, Mr Reuss said the development of the Volt’s lithium-ion battery technology was in its final stages before production began. Asked if there will be technological advances between the time the Volt is launched in California in late 2010 and when it goes on sale here, Mr Reuss said: “We know there will be.

“This is very much living technology development, so we have a very good, experienced team working on the batteries… it’s going well, if that’s what you’re asking. Right now we’re in the final stages of battery production. We have the cars running around right now in validation testing of the batteries. I’d say it’s pretty real.

“It is a test-bed of new technology, so anything that we find we need to do, from a technology and improvement standpoint, we’ll do as we introduce the car,” he said.

Mr Reuss also said there was potential for technology ‘flow-down’ to locally-built models like the Commodore, but would not be specific.

“A lot of the research and development that’s done on this happens to be in the US because of the battery supply capability, but the technology that’s leveraged is in all of our global homerooms like Holden. It’s a global organisation, so the R&D organisation that’s doing this has people located in Holden,” he said.

GM describes the front-drive, four-seater Volt as an extended-range electric vehicle (E-REV) that has no direct competitors because it uses electricity to drive its 17-inch forged alloy wheels at all speeds at all times.

The downside is that once depleted, its lithium-ion battery pack needs to be recharged manually, before which it employs its petrol engine to create electricity. It features regenerative braking technology, develops 111kW and 370Nm of torque, has a top speed of 160km/h and an EV range of 64km/h in the city.

Toyota is developing plug-in recharge technology to be introduced during the life cycle of its next-generation Prius, which will be presented at the Detroit motor show in January, and says it will continue to be a parallel hybrid system that uses both its petrol engine and (for shorter distances) its nickel-metal-hydride battery pack to drive its wheels.

Nissan has promised to deliver Australia’s first fully electric vehicle, employing technology seen in the Mixim concept from last year’s Frankfurt motor show, in 2012.

The Volt rides on a 2685mm wheelbase and measures 4404mm long, 1798mm wide and 1430mm long. GM says it offers 301 litres of luggage space.

Read more:

GM confirms Chevrolet’s electric Volt for Oz

Nissan Oz commits to all-electric car by 2012

The Road to Recovery podcast series

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