If not for an unplanned-for tipster, the Chevy Bolt EV Concept that looks like an affordable counterpoint to BMW’s i3 was nearly a surprise, and perhaps it was a bit easier keeping its development under wraps as it hails from Australia.
Although GM did not mention it in its press release, the Bolt was built at GM Australia’s Port Melbourne-based design studio.
According to CarAdvice.com, this is one of only two GM design workshops in the world that could have done the job.
Rumor has it that the surprise was blown by a senior employee at GM and the story that was broken by the Wall Street Journal and reported here last weekend too, tipped what would have caught everyone unprepared.
Word has it also that GM CEO Mary Barra was none too pleased, but a source said the offender who provided the leak was “too high up” to fire.
In any case, the good news for EV fans is the Bolt is a built-from-the-ground up pure electric car. It is not the Chevrolet Sonic converted to EV duties as some had speculated would be the case.
GM’s one all-electric car now is the converted smaller Spark EV, but the all-new design with skateboard-style chassis is being praised as a step in the right direction for GM.
Barra said the over “200 mile” range Bolt represents what GM can do, it will release it nationally, and the $37,500 before incentives vehicle undercuts the carbon-fiber-reinforced-plastic-intensive BMW which now offers 81 miles and starts at $42,400 before incentives.
And, it hails from down under.
The Bolt concept project was actually a joint effort between GM Australia, GM Korea and GM North America.
CarAdvice.com interviewed Richard Ferlazzo, design director for GM Australia, who said his group has shown itself important to how GM creates concepts and makes them real.
The Melbourne design house was also responsible for the show-stopping Buick Avenir large sedan concept.
“We are a global design center and as such we have the talent and capability to lead, collaborate and support global programs for international markets such as this,” Ferlazzo said to CarAdvice.com.
“The products revealed at the 2015 North American International Auto Show in Detroit clearly demonstrate our role within GM Design today and showcase the breath of talent we have here in Australia, enabling us to work on different vehicles for different brands in different countries,” he said.
Whether it happens to be a similar in concept – and even a similar shade of orange albeit without black hood – as the BMW i3 is now a secondary issue for many EV fans.
The Bolt’s flat floor and short overhangs enable it to utilize space well and GM now has a concept car based on a chassis that GM could easily create new vehicles upon as well.
Reports also have drawn inevitable comparisons to the proposed Tesla Model 3 which, while a sedan more like BMW’s 3-series, not i3, also aims to be priced in the middle 30s and over that 200-mile range.
Actually, if developments in the EV world happen as evidence suggests they could, Nissan may be there with a new Leaf by 2017 as well, the BMW i3 could have greater range, and perhaps we’ll have more candidates in a heating-up second wave of battery electric cars?
Meanwhile, one might now also wonder what else is cooking in Melbourne which may not be a direct beneficiary of the fruit of its labor.
While GM’s Melbourne design house may have global capabilities, whether its home market will ever get the Bolt or any other plug-in car it may happen to create is very much in question.
The Aussies do not get government subsidies as are offered in the U.S. and other markets. As a result, cars like the $A60,000 Holden Volt sold just 132 units last year compared to 18,805 Chevy Volts in the U.S. priced from $35,000 and subsidized-lower.
Whether the Australians will get the new Volt with Holden badging is unclear, and it’s been suggested there is irony here indeed, if the country increases its role in developing plug-in cars for others that lack a sufficient market at home.