The move to build the Volt, an electric version of the new Holden Cruze, is backed by a federal and state government lobbying campaign, spearheaded yesterday by South Australian Premier Mike Rann at GM's Detroit headquarters, aimed at generating thousands more jobs in the country's struggling automotive sector.
Federal Industry Minister Kim Carr, who has been working with the SA Government on the issue, will visit Detroit in October for further talks with GM chief executive Fritz Henderson.
Mr Rann yesterday held an hour-long meeting with Mr Henderson after visiting the GM Volt four-cylinder electric car pre-production plant, where he was taken on a demonstration drive. He also held talks with GM's chief economist, Mustafa Mohatarem.
"Mr Henderson told me he was strongly committed to the company's Australian operations and he had great confidence in the company's Australian management," Mr Rann said.
"They will be concentrating on the US domestic market at first for the Volt electric car, but he did point out that the Volt and the new Cruze had the same platform."
Senator Carr was reluctant to comment on the campaign because of the complex commercial considerations involved but did note that the project had scope for several possibilities including petrol, LPG, E85, diesel and electric.
Mr Rann said the Holden Volt, due for introduction in Australia as an imported vehicle in 2012, could have a future in Holden's expanded operations making small and large cars side by side.
The Premier said the new Holden Cruze had the same architectural base as the Volt so therefore it was technologically possible to have an electric version of the Cruze manufactured on the new production line at Elizabeth.
The Cruze, currently imported into Australia but with other versions to be manufactured here from next year, has sold about 2000 units in its first full month of sales, making it one of the top 10 selling cars in the nation.
GM has a commitment to respond to changing demands in the market and the State Government is contributing $30 million over the next four years, along with $140 million from the Federal Government.
Earlier this month, it was revealed Holden had been given a $200 million lifeline by the Federal Government as it battled the economic meltdown and an alarming sales slump.
GM Holden national media manager Scott Whiffin said the company was delighted Mr Rann had the opportunity to meet Mr Henderson.
With: Adelaide Now