When General Motors killed off the Holden brand in 2020, it could have been assumed that it was the last we would see of the bowtie brand in this part of the world. But then the company quickly introduced the GMSV brand in Australia and New Zealand, maintaining a foothold in the region.
GMSV stands for General Motors Specialty Vehicles and sells niche GM vehicles such as the Silverado pickup, which was converted to right-hand drive in Melbourne, and the factory RHD Corvette.
But in addition to offering low-volume flagships, it kept the GM brand alive in our part of the world, leading to the obvious speculation that GM’s shift to EVs could well see a wider emergence of the company’s various brands in our market , especially given that it’s much easier – and most importantly, cheaper – to engineer an EV platform in both LHD and RHD.
And while they still refuse to confirm anything like that, General Motors’ top brass certainly weren’t shy about saying how easy it would be to do at a recent event in Detroit to showcase future developments — the biggest being the company’s new Ultium EV architecture – attended by 65 journalists from eleven markets around the world, including Australia and New Zealand.
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Shilpan Amin, GM Senior Vice President and President of GM International told visiting global media at the two-day trip and technology immersion in Michigan that GM is “committed to deploying its zero-emission and autonomous technologies globally to help build a sustainable future for the planet.”
Amin said that in recent weeks the company has confirmed its Warren campus as the manufacturing site for the ultra-luxury Cadillac Celestiq and has opened pre-orders in the US for the Cadillac Lyriq EV, with other markets to follow, as well as unveiling the “dynamic design” of the Chevrolet Blazer EV, which increases production of the Chevrolet Bolt EV and EUV.
In addition to predicting record sales of the Bolt this year and next, Amin said more than 73,000 people have already reserved a GMC Hummer.
“Our zero-emissions, all-electric future is happening right now. GM is moving faster than ever – and we’re fully focused on bringing our new technology to customers around the world,” he said.
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Asked if that meant the likes of Lyriq and Hummer were destined to head us in RHD form, Amin said “Here’s the exciting part of a purpose-built electric platform – you no longer have to design and develop unique engines and transmissions that have to go through calibration and field development We can effectively scale these products and make them available worldwide.
“The other part of this is the conversion between left-hand drive and right-hand drive – that’s still something we have to design and develop further into the architecture, but it’s a lot easier when you don’t have an engine sitting in front of you that limits your ability to provide these products with right-hand drive.”
Another encouraging factor seems to be the fact that because it is so efficient to design an EV with left-hand drive and right-hand drive markets in mind, a company doesn’t necessarily need large volumes of potential sales to justify it. .
“You can actually do it quite efficiently at any volume for markets around the world,” Amin said.
This ease of development and the flexibility of the Ultium architecture was also touched on by President and CEO of Strategic Markets, Alliances and Distributors for Cadillac, Christian Soemmer, who, when asked if General Motors is expanding its global right-hand drive presence, said: “If I look at the right-hand drive market globally, where do I really see opportunities? It’s the UK, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.”
“Do we believe there are future right-hand drive models in the GM portfolio? That remains to be seen, but we have built our future EVs with the greatest possible flexibility in mind to potentially enter these markets.”
While none of this confirms that General Motors will make a comeback into the broader right-hand drive market, the flexibility of the Ultium architecture and its lightweight potential for right-hand drive were emphasized a number of times during the two-day event, as was the global nature of the company’s ambitions.
“This was an unprecedented chance to showcase GM’s global future direction and provide insight into some of the amazing products and innovations that GM will deliver to markets around the world in the coming years,” said Marc Ebolo, CEO of GM Australia and New Zealand.
Ebolo said that while the company had no ANZ-specific announcements to make yet, “The participation of our regional media in the program was important as it conveys what may well be possible in the wider GM International region.”
What that actually means remains to be seen, but the likelihood of New Zealand seeing future General Motors EV models based on the Ultium architecture suddenly sounds a lot more likely.
“Our future growth plans will be taken from the things that you’ve seen here. That’s the future of GM ANZ, and we’ll certainly take things from that,” Ebolo said.