GM green-lights Aussie-penned Chevrolet Bolt

Chevrolet Bolt

AN ELECTRIC car concept that tapped the talents of GM’s Australian design centre will become a production reality from 2017, the carmaker has announced.

The Chevrolet Bolt, unveiled in Detroit last month as a low-cost, 320km-range, battery-powered vehicle, will be built in the US and go on sale in 2017, GM chief executive Mary Barra and former Holden managing director (now North America president) Alan Batey said at the Chicago motor show last week.

The concept car unveiled at Detroit was built in Australia and includes design input from GM’s Korean studio as well as the US.

It was one of the stars of GM’s stage, unveiled alongside the Buick Avenir, a large all-wheel-drive sedan penned in Australia but meant to sway US buyers back to the luxury badge.

It also marked the first time the 140 Australian Holden designers had presented two major concepts at a major international motor show.

"The message from consumers about the Bolt EV concept was clear and unequivocal: Build it," Batey said at the announcement.

“We are moving quickly because of its potential to completely shake up the status quo for electric vehicles.”

The production version of the Bolt is believed to be a direct response to Californian EV start-up Tesla, which is starting to shift its model mix to vehicles consumers want to buy rather than exotic sports cars.

Tesla is expected to launch a seven-seat people-mover called the Model X either later this year or early in 2016; the launch date of the vehicle has pushed back from the start of this year for reasons that are yet to be revealed.

The pure EV specialist has also started work on a small BMW 3 Series-fighting sedan known as the Model 3, with a similar electric range to the Bolt.

At this stage GM has hinted that the Bolt will only be built for the US market, with no mention of plans to export the electricity-fuelled hatch to other world markets.

A spokeswoman for Holden said the company would “take a look at” the Bolt if it was ever spun off into other markets.

Meanwhile, Holden said the rebadged Volt plug-in petrol-electric hybrid hatchback would remain on sale here despite a decision to pull an Opel Ampera-badged version of the car out of European markets in response to slow sales.

In Australia, only 58 units of the $59,990 Volt sold last year, down from 101 units in 2013. In the first month of this year, it sold seven.

Mitsubishi’s $47,490 plug-in petrol-electric hybrid Outlander SUV managed to sell 35 units after launching in April last year, and in the first month of this year attracted 16 buyers.

However, while the current Volt is still on sale, no decision has been made about importing the next-generation model that shares its underpinnings with an all-new Cruze that also won’t make it to Australia – at least while Holden still makes the old one.

“Volt has never obviously been about volume,” the spokeswoman said. “It’s been about introducing the (plug-in hybrid) technology to Australia.”

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