There was plenty of fanfare surrounding the launch of the first-ever Holden Volt back in 2012, but lacklustre sales in right-hand-drive markets has lead to General Motors to pull the plug on a replacement version for those markets.
As CarAdvice reported recently, the new, second-generation Volt will be sold only as a left-hand-drive car. And while it was a technological showcase for the Holden brand and an indication of what could come, it appears the company isn't exactly devastated at losing the plug-in hybrid small sedan.
Speaking with CarAdvice at the launch of the new Astra and Cascada models, Holden executive director of sales, Peter Keley, suggested buyers simply didn't find the Volt as appealing as the brand perhaps expected.
"The consumer has effectively told us that while they have an interest, they’re not willing to vote with their hip pocket," Keley said. "And nor is there any other incentive to encourage that type of behaviour."
Keley praised the pragmatic nature of Australian car buyers, but noted that it makes doing business slightly more difficult than in some other markets where there are incentives to choose environmentally-friendly vehicles.
"The Australian consumer has always been very savvy about what represents value. And you do the sums, and there are better solutions to minimising running costs. And that’s the reality," he said.
"The sums don’t add up. We had a go. But certainly on Australian and New Zealand volumes, to do a right-hand drive program uniquely for ourselves is a very very tall order off the current volumes," he said.
Holden director of communications, Sean Poppitt, said the Australian market in general isn't as enthusiastic about hybrids and electric cars as is the case in other developed markets.
"Electric and hybrid vehicles in the passenger car market last year were around three per cent," he said. "That’s a pretty ringing vote from consumers.
"It’s the distance that we travel on a day-to-day basis, it’s the lack of infrastructure, it’s the relatively cheap petrol, it's potentially government incentives as well," he said.
"Having said that, the Volt was always about more than just sales volumes. As much as the numbers didn’t stack up, it’s a big advertisement for what Holden and GM can do in that space," he said.
"So, are we ruling out any future hybridisation or electric cars? Absolutely not. One of the advantages - as Peter said - about not being tied to one brand and not being tied to one country of origin, we can assess that best, and we’re absolutely going to consider every option that GM can put on the table for us," Poppitt said.
One such future option is likely to be the Chevrolet Bolt, an Australian designed and engineered electric crossover model that was touted by GM CEO Mary Barra as a “game changer”, one that she insisted “is no stripped-down science project”.
At the Detroit show Barra suggested that GM has plans to bring the Bolt to market in the US with a price target of US$30,000 (approximately $37,500), while also stating a production version could boast 200 miles (322 kilometres) of range.
Poppitt said that vehicle isn't yet officially confirmed to make it to market, but that it offered an intriguing option that could be on the table at some point.
"Bolt, hypothetically anyway, it’s Chevrolet’s car, and they haven't made any announcements about manufacturing, about where it’s going to go or where it’s going to come from, but it’s really not our place to speculate on any of Chevrolet’s products," he said.
When asked if buyer preferences for SUV-style models could help the Bolt appeal more to a wide range of potential customers, Poppitt suggested that tech-lovers will be tech-lovers, no matter the car involved.
"I think the same kind of people that are attracted to Volt would still be attracted to a smaller model," he said.