Detroit Motor Show: Holden’s 320km EV for the world

Holden designers have styled a $40,000 Chevrolet electric vehicle capable of travelling 320km on a charge.

A concept for now, the Chevrolet Bolt is slated for production around 2017 and will sell in America for US$30,000 once green car incentives are factored in.

The Bolt is designed as a global car that could ultimately be sold with a Holden badge in Australia – although General Motors executives are tight-lipped for now.

The design of the compact crossover hatch kicked off in Korea and took input from the United States before being completed mid-2014 and air freighted to America for presentation to GM executives ahead of its 2015 Detroit debut.

The Bolt was the star of the Chevrolet stand at the 2015 Detroit motor show and was revealed within hours of the Buick Avenir, another concept car created by the Australian-based GM design team.

It is the first time the 140 Australian Holden designers have presented two major concepts at a major international motor show.

“We’re more than stoked we have two cars at the same show,” said GM Australia design director Richard Ferlazzo. “[It’s the] First time for us to have two cars at the same show from Australia.”

The twin motor show stars – each the standouts for the Chevrolet and Buick brands – is a coup for the Australian design team, which only a couple of years ago was concerned about long term job prospects in the lead-up to the December 2013 announcement that Holden would cease producing cars in Australia by late 2017.

“They always said they wanted it for an American reveal … and our preference was always this show, it’s the largest by far,” said Ferlazzo.

The Bolt will be sold around the world but it’s unknown if the production model will be produced in right-hand drive.

“It’s a global vehicle,” said Ferlazzo. “They’re committed to a global car.”

When asked if it would be produced in right-hand drive – paving the way for Australian sales – Ferlazzo said “you would imagine so, but it’s way beyond what we can answer”.

Former Holden boss and GM executive vice president and president, North America, Alan Batey, said the Bolt would be a crucial model for Chevrolet and General Motors.

“This is leading, not following,” said Batey. “No one has pulled the covers off a vehicle that’s going to have a range of 200 miles and basically you can drive it away for [US] $30,000. This isn’t directed at Tesla. Tesla’s got an average transaction price of $100,000 and is selling electric vehicles to the rich and famous. This is a vehicle for the people.”

Batey said the Chevrolet Bolt was part of a broader electrification strategy that would usher in a family of vehicles.

“You need a range of vehicles to meet different customers’ needs,” he said. “I think in the future what you’ll see, definitely from us, is a range of different vehicles.

“We’ll also use the electrical technology with other things that you’ve seen already that we’ve done on Malibu, so more to come.”

Batey described the Bolt as a “sweet spot” for electric cars, with some crossover appeal, while Ferlazzo said it was about electric propulsion without the oddball looks.

“We’re trying to get a bit of a shift in the way these small electric cars are designed,” said Ferlazzo. “This is more of a CUV (crossover utility vehicle). For too long electric cars have looked like science projects … we’re beyond that now. Consumers know what electric can do, now it’s a matter of how do you optimise the package of an electric vehicle to give me a car that’s really practical.”

Along with other Australian journalists Wheels saw the Bolt concept coming together at Holden’s Port Melbourne design studios as part of a top secret look inside one of General Motors’ most respected international design studios. At the time it was claimed the concept was an internal study only and would never be displayed at a motor show.

Ferlazzo said having two major models on display at America’s biggest motor show was a “huge boost” for morale at a brand that has seen its market share slip, is currently without a permanent managing director and a year ago announced the end of 65 years of Australian vehicle production.

“It doesn’t get any better than this – and two bookends,” said Ferlazzo. “We’re not concentrating on one thing only, we’re looking at a highly efficient, small electric vehicle and a luxurious, sculptural limousine for Buick. It shows the breadth, that’s what we’re most gratified about.”

Ferlazzo said having two former Holden bosses in senior leadership positions at GM’s Detroit head office was a plus.

“We get great support … it doesn’t hurt to have guys like Alan Batey and Mark Reuss. We do Holden work and we do GM work.”

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