- David Twomey
The Chairman and Managing Director of GM-Holden, Mark Reuss, in an end of year review given to motoring media in Melbourne last night, but embargoed until this afternoon, said the Commodore E85 would be on sale in 2010.
He also announced that the version of the Chevrolet Volt electric-powered vehicle to be sold in Australia would carry the Holden nameplate.
“I can assure you that the Volt, when we start selling it in 2012, will have a lion badge on it,” Mr Reuss said.
He said little else could be said about the plans to sell the Volt in Australia at the moment as the development of the electric car was moving at a considerable pace, but the car would becoming here as a Holden Volt.
He said that at the same time the company would be taking up the E85 fuel supply cause with government, producers and the fuel supply companies to ensure there was widespread availability of the ethanol fuel.
He admitted that GM-Holden subsidiary, GM Premium Brand, had been a test bed for the E85 Commodore when it introduced Saab 9-3 vehicles with E85 capability.
Buyers of those cars have had little chance to use them on the ‘green’ fuel because supply is currently restricted to about four service stations Australia-wide.
Mr Reuss says that will change with the introduction of the E85 Commodore and GM-Holden would be working closely with ethanol producer CSR, and fuel suppliers, such as Caltex and BP, to ensure that the ethanol-based fuel was widely available.
Ethanol powered cars general produce more power than those on straight petrol, and consume more fuel, but that fuel is usual 30-40 percent cheaper than petrol, which would mean E85 should currently sell for about $0.65 a litre.
Mr Reuss said Holden already had substantial experience in building ethanol powered engines, as it was producing the current V6 engine for export in configurations up to E85.
The Holden Commodores will be flex-fuel vehicles, which means they can run on any combination of fuel from straight 91RON petrol through to an 85 percent ethanol blend.
Mr Reuss said GM-Holden was particularly keen to promote the use of E85 in Australia as the fuel was produced here from waste products, which put it outside the “food-or-fuel” argument.
He said there was currently the potential to replace 10 percent of Australia’s oil imports with ethanol fuel “ and that has to be very good for the country.”
He would not be drawn on the possibility of tax breaks for E85 buyers, as has been the case in Europe, where the fuel has been extensively introduced in the past two years, but said he thought the move was consistent with the Federal Government’s recently announced $6-billion green car initiative.
Mr Reuss spoke at some length about the Australian government’s initiatives to keep the car industry alive and praised the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, and the Industry Minister, Senator Kim Carr, for their efforts.
He said the government plans were fair and reasonable as they required the car companies to put in as well as the government.
On the question of ethanol fuel supply Mr Reuss said Gm-Holden would be working closely with local ethanol producers and was also taking a close interest in the development work being done in the US, which is support by parent company General Motors, into the development of cellulose ethanol, which he thought could eventually also be produced in Australia.
Mr Reuss admitted that ethanol was not an answer to the fuel problems for cars but he said it was a way for Australia to leverage its reliance on oil.
He said GM-Holden would be showing the lead in the use of alternative fuels and as well as E85 would be looking at the use of LPG and possibly CNG fuels.
In an apparent swipe at some other manufacturers reliance on hybrid technology he said this was also an alternative but one which didn’t seem to provide sound economic arguments.
He said hybrid techno logy was usually quite expensive for the fuel reductions that it delivered.
He said Holden would not be looking to charge a premium for its E85 engined Commodore.
“You cannot charge a lot of money for people to use ethanol in their cars, so we won’t be opting to do that,” he said.
Asked if GM-Holden had the capacity to produce a small car in Australia with its current infrastructure Mr Reuss emphatically replied “yes”.
He said he would not confirm or deny any such plans but said the com pany would have the capacity in Australia to build a car smaller than the Commodore.
He added that if such a plan was adopted then the vehicle would be drawn from the ‘world car’ pool of Gm products and it would also have to have export potential.
He said that the car would have to meet the Federal Government’s Green Car requirements and that he believed such a car could be made in Australia and meet a sub-$20,000 price point.