The Holden Volt
Australia's first Holden Volt, presented by GM Holden Ltd's Chairman and Managing Director, Mike Devereux with US Ambassador Jeffrey Bleich. Photo: Melissa Adams
The United States lost a great car salesman when Jeffrey Bleich, the US ambassador to Australia, opted for diplomacy over marketing.
Mr Bleich, who has just taken delivery of the first Holden Volt to be imported to Australia from the US, even handed Holden the perfect market slogan when he accepted the keys from the company's chairman and managing director, Mike Devereux, at the embassy on Wednesday.
''It is joy without sin,'' is how he described the eerily silent, silver grey, plug-in hybrid import. ''It is keeping up with the Kardashians and getting smarter.''
While Mr Bleich is unlikely to swap his armour-plated 7-series BMW for the Volt as his daily ride any time soon, he was obviously quite taken with the 4.5-metre-long, 1.72-tonne vehicle that manages to deliver a remarkable 3.9 litres/100 kilometres fuel economy.
The embassy has bought the vehicle as part of the US push towards greening its global diplomatic presence.
''Ours is the greenest embassy in the world and the only green embassy in Australia,'' he said.
Unlike conventional petrol-electric hybrids from manufacturers such as Honda and Toyota, the Volt does not use a petrol engine supplemented by an electric motor. It takes the reverse approach with an on-board petrol engine used to charge the lithium batteries, which, in turn, power the electric motor.
The batteries can also be charged by plugging the vehicle into a 120 to 240 volt residential power point. In the US owners need to buy a $490 home charging unit and the same is believed to be the case in Australia.
The car can travel up to 61 kilometres on battery alone on a full charge. With a full tank of petrol it can travel 610km, only slightly less than a six-cylinder Commodore's 666km range.
While it has been reported that General Motors, the Holden parent company, loses money on every Volt it builds, Mr Devereux said the product was more than just a car.
''It [the Volt] is a low-volume vehicle and unlikely to be produced here because of that,'' he said. ''It is a technological statement for us; it shows we are committed to fuel efficiency. We already build a small, fuel-efficient car in Australia. It is called the Cruze.''
Mr Bleich went further. ''It's a technological marvel,'' he said.
Holden used the moment to show off one of the beefed-up Statesmans it is selling as patrol cruisers to police forces across the US.