General Motors’ division in Australia, Holden, is preparing to launch the Holden Volt – a right-hand drive version of the Chevrolet Volt – in the island country of New Zealand.
In the small, 103,482-square-mile country, Holden will have three dealers with a total of six technicians trained to repair what’s expected to be limited numbers of the $85,000 NZD ($69,960 USD) extended-range EVs. These cars, while costing almost double what their American counterparts do will furthermore have no government incentives to help spur sales.
“It’s not going to sell thousands or even hundreds,” said Holden New Zealand managing director Jeff Murray. “But it does represent what General Motors is capable of and puts Holden right at the cutting edge of this technology.”
There ought to be no worries about service and support however for those first Kiwis who take the plunge. Should something go wrong Holden will pay for Volt owners to stay at a hotel if needed, and if trouble were to exceed local skills, it will fly in engineers to fix the exotic American gas-electric car.
Reporting on the expected new-tech vehicle, the New Zealand Herald commented with the usual comparisons to loosely competitive plug-in cars also offered at outsized pricing in the small market.
“This is obviously a huge investment for someone wanting to get into the electro-hybrid realm,” wrote the Herald reporter, “and with Nissan and Mitsubishi’s all-electric offerings in the $60,000 area and Toyota’s Prius just over half that, it will be interesting to see how much of the buying public is prepared to vote with its wallets.”
Without qualifying that the Reuters report implicitly referenced examining Volt production costs used questionable accounting for its analysis, the Herald all the way across world didn’t miss the chance to drop in the sentence, “The company has strongly denied claims that it costs more to build than it does to buy.”
But the story which includes mention of a brief drive review by Driven is otherwise balanced, and notes Holden is working with power suppliers and lobbying for government incentives to help sweeten up the value proposition, if granted.
As for the brief road review of a left-hand drive pre-production version this year at Holden’s Lang proving ground near Melbourne this year, the Volt was reported as “car like.”
“We’re really looking forward to getting some serious ks in the car on New Zealand roads to see how it performs in our real world driving conditions,” wrote the New Zealand Herald.
Do you think they will be disappointed? Probably not as many a reviewer has said, the Volt does function quite well, and in its quiet all-electric mode, has a hushed operation that many have said spoil them for any other powertrain.
But as the car is being contemplated by New Zealanders, they, like everyone before them, have to go through the usual tire kicking ritual.
Even so, at this point, the car is really little more than an experiment, or so it would appear, and Holden’s Murray said the Volt is being viewed by Holden as a demonstration of its “market-leading technology.” Actually, GM says the same thing in the U.S., that it’s a “halo,” so perhaps in New Zealand it will be a halo-plus?
But for those first adopters who will go for the plug-in GM, Holden has expressed concerns also to not overload house circuitry in aging homes.
Given this, Holden will factory set default charging to six amps meaning a 10-hour recharge time from standard 240-volt, 10-amp house wiring as found in New Zealand.
“There are a lot of old houses from the ’50s and ’60s and we really don’t know what the wiring in those houses is like,” said Holden electrical engineering specialist Paul Gibson. “The best way to tell is for us to check the house’s electrical system and then we can easily change the charge setting from inside the car back to 10 amps.”
The Leaf and MiEV, it was noted, will make adoption a bit more complicated, and require upgraded wiring to allow 15 amps, if owners don’t also opt to upgrade for a fast charger.
Such cases with the need for fast-charging speed may be the minority particularly for the Volt, and its all-electric range may be even better suited for the shorter average driving distances reportedly traveled in New Zealanders.
“[M]ost Kiwis do less than 30km every day, so it’s possible that some Volt owners will hardly ever delve into the fuel tank,” said the Herald.