United States General Motors has unveiled two Australian designed and built concept cars at the Detroit Motor Show, in a move the chief designer said showed the company “is really a believer” in Australian design.
An Australian designed electric car is among two concept cars unveiled by General Motors at the Detroit Auto Show, in a move the chief designer says shows the company “is really a believer” in Australian design.
When GM announced in 2013 that it was shutting its Australian factories by 2017, the company said it would keep open its Australian design studio. At the time, there was some scepticism about just how much of a role the Holden design team would play in creating new models for GM to market around the world.
But at the Detroit Auto Show — in the hometown of General Motors — the company showed off two concept cars, designed and built from start to finish in Port Melbourne.
Chevrolet launched a small, glass-roofed electric vehicle called Bolt, which was described as a template for bringing electric cars into the mainstream.
Australian chief designer with GM Frank Rudolph described the design commission as “the best gig you can be given”.
“Especially in the context of the Australian industry, it’s a real strong sign to us that at least for design GM is really a believer in Australian design,” Mr Rudolph said.
“If you were to take a look at it, you wouldn’t see a whole lot of button and knobs and gadgets.
“But that’s the idea. That’s the hard thing, to make the technology so integrated.”
The other car revealed at the Detroit show was the Avenir concept car by Buick, a big four-door sedan in the mould of the Australian-built saloons.
While it may provide a hint of what could replace the Commodore once Australian production ends, whatever shape it takes, it will not be built in Australia.
Buick vice-president Duncan Aldred said the task of designing the car was given to the Australian team because of their “particular skill set”.
“It’s a design study, so it’s very much about the exterior and interior designs,” he said.
“There’s a particular skill set that we had in our Australian design team, especially with larger cars, and that’s why the job was given to them.”
However Mr Aldred’s comments would come as little consolation to the workers who will not be building the new cars in Australia.
The motor show also featured a new GT supercar unveiled by Ford, an update to the legendary sports car last produced a decade ago before the US industry plunged into crisis.
This year’s Detroit Auto Show marks a turning point for American carmakers. The $US80 billion bailout of the industry came to an end a few weeks ago.
Companies like GM, Ford and Chrysler are having to choose the technology they will pursue: whether to hitch themselves to hybrid, electric or fuel cell, or stick with the big boxy car models that got them into trouble in the first place.