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General Motors’ decision to close down Holden looks set to help the brand usher in an electric future in Australia.
The American giant has begun its electric vehicle (EV) roll-out in the US, with the GMC Hummer joined by the new Chevrolet Silverado EV, Chevrolet Blazer EV and Chevrolet Equinox EV – and more are on the way by 2025. Then there’s the rumours of the Camaro coupe evolving into an electric sports sedan and the premium Cadillac Lyriq SUV.
This combination of electric utes, SUVs and performance cars seems perfectly suited to the Australian market, which love those market segments, and General Motors Specialty Vehicles (GMSV) is ideally placed to make these new EVs available Down Under if US management allows.
While it’s still too early for GMSV to confirm which (if any) of these models it will offer in Australia, there’s an argument to be made for all four of them.
GM already sold the Hummer locally in the late 2000s when it was trying to position it as a premium brand alongside Saab and Cadillac. It was arguably ahead of its time, with even the smallest H3 model too big for many peoples’ taste. That’s not a problem anymore, though, with Australian’s seemingly now of the opinion that ‘bigger is better’ when it comes to SUVs.
The same is true of utes, with the petrol-powered Silverados proving there is already an audience for these behemoth US utes.
As for the Chevy Blazer and Equinox, these SUVs are a must for any self-respecting brand that wants to sell cars in this country given our seemingly never-ending enthusiasm for SUVs. Importantly, these SUVs aren’t related to the forgettable Equinox and other Chevrolets that were sold with Holden badges during its final days.
The switch to electrification means the new Blazer and Equinox sit on the same ‘Ultium’ platform as the Silverado, Hummer and Lyriq. They will have modern interiors, too, which was one of the biggest criticisms of the Chevrolet models sold here by Holden. This would allow GMSV to position them as a more premium offering at a more premium price, which would be needed to make any business case stack up.
Or, if GMSV wanted to commit more completely to the premium focus, introducing the Cadillac brand with the stylish Lyriq would be another valid option.
As for the speculated ‘Camaro sports sedan’, this electric four-door would, as we’ve previously written, make for a spiritual successor to the Holden Commodore audience that still has a soft spot for the Lion brand.
The key to any GMSV plan to introduce these models would be price and positioning in the broader market. As we’ve seen with every other brand, EVs are not yet close to having price parity with conventional internal-combustion engine (ICE) models.
Holden would have been hamstrung trying to sell an Equinox EV for a hefty premium over its petrol-powered equivalent. GMSV is highly unlikely to offer mainstream models like the petrol-powered Equinox, so it would be able to sell the new Chevy EVs free from any direct comparisons to cheaper models. Instead, it could go head-to-head with the likes of the Hyundai Ioniq 5, Kia EV6 and Tesla Model Y.
The problem Holden had which GMSV doesn’t is history. Holden had a legacy as a mainstream, volume-driven brand, so trying to introduce expensive EV models (as it did with short-lived Volt) was always going to be a challenge. People had an expectation of what Holdens should cost and so transitioning to lower-volume, higher-priced models would have been an incredibly difficult task for such a large company.
GMSV on the other hand has been set up from the beginning as a niche player in the local market, focused on its unique models - the Silverado and Corvette - that are sold with a healthy margin in relatively limited numbers.
This is precisely the model GM should deploy with its EV models - low volume but high margin. While this would likely mean not all of the models we’ve listed here would work in that scenario, there’s certainly a case for having, say, the Silverado EV, Hummer SUV and one of Equinox/Blaze/Lyriq to form a trio of electric options under the GMSV banner.
This may be all hypothetical at this moment in time, and certainly GMSV is doing well with its Silverado/Corvette duo, but as time marches on and GM electrifies further in the USA, attention will turn to Australia eventually. When that moment comes, GMSV will be better positioned than Holden likely ever could have been.