In its home market of the United States of America, the Chevrolet Volt has proven a consistently strong-selling plug-in car. Since its launch in December 2010, more than 75,200 Volts had been sold in the U.S. to the end of March, just over 1,000 cars less than the current U.S. plug-in champion, the Nissan LEAF electric hatch.
But in Europe, where the Volt’s American styling, high sticker price and four-seat design met with apathy from buyers, neither the Chevy Volt nor its European-styled sibling the Vauxhall/Opel Ampera experienced strong sales. Ultimately, this lead to GM cancelling both the Volt and eventually the Ampera in Europe. Worse still, there’s little chance the all-new 2016 Volt will be offered there, with GM saying the Volt just isn’t right for European tastes.
Now it seems Australia is following suit with the news Holden — GM’s Australian brand — has announced the Volt will soon be bidding adieu to the Antipodean nation.
As Motoring.com.au explains, just 246 Holden Volts have been sold in Australia since the model went on sale there in 2012, making the Volt an unmitigated disaster down under.
Why? There’s a multitude of reasons, ranging from the Volt’s $60,000 AUS sticker price, a complete lack of subsidies for plug-in buyers in most areas, a complete lack of public charging infrastructure, and a fairly conservative government whose attitude towards climate change and carbon emissions is less than ideal.
“Electric and hybrid vehicles haven’t taken off in Australia,” said Holden’s director of communications Sean Poppitt. “Considering the lack of infrastructure, the lack of government incentives, the large distances between cities, it’s a tough sell.”
But while sales of hybrid, plug-in electric and plug-in hybrid cars make up less than three percent of all new car sales in Australia, it turns out poor sales isn’t the reason for the Volt’s departure.
General Motors’ Detroit Hamtramck facility, where the Volt is currently made, has announced it won’t be making any right-hand drive versions of the Volt, meaning Australian, and British customers won’t ever get the second-generation plug-in.
Neither will the handful of other markets that could have theoretically welcomed the next-generation Volt, including the Republic of Ireland, India and New Zealand.
That’s a disappointment for Holden says Poppitt, who believes that the future for electric vehicles and hybrid cars in Australia isn’t all bad news. When asked if Holden would consider a future plug-in model, Poppitt was optimistic.
“Absolutely,” he said. “The Volt is not being offered in the next-generation in right-hand drive — our hands are tied there — but GM is constantly looking at various different hybridisation and electric options. We’ll continue to evaluate everything that’s possibly available for our market, absolutely.”
To date, the few plug-in cars that have been offered in Australia have suffered similarly low sales figures to the Volt. But there is at least hope for plug-in fans: earlier this month, Tesla Motors showcased its plans to build a Supercharger corridor for owners of its Model S luxury electric sedan from Melbourne to Brisbane, making long-distance travel a reality for those along Australia’s eastern shores.
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