General Motors sent out a notice to local media outlets this week recommending that Cayman Islands car customers buy new Chevy vehicles directly at the local authorised dealership.
“Recently, there was a situation with a Chevrolet Volt, GM’s extended range electric vehicle, which was exported from the United States into the Cayman Islands by an entity different than General Motors,” the notice stated. “Outside the (US and Canada), no General Motors dealer shall endorse warranty, or service to these vehicles.
“The Chevrolet Volt is a vehicle with highly advanced technology that requires GM’s official support in order to get the best performance,” said GM Managing Director for Central America and the Caribbean Ernesto Ortiz.
The notice refers to a new Chevy Volt model that was imported by John Felder of Cayman Automotive earlier this year. The Volt was the first primarily electrically-powered vehicle to be registered for use on Cayman’s main thoroughfares by the Department of Vehicles and Drivers Licensing. The car, which runs completely on electricity for the first 40 miles, and afterward uses petrol to power its electric engine, was sold to Caribbean Utilities Company.
Mr. Felder said Tuesday that CUC should have no problems.
“I already have hired my own electric car technician,” he said. “He’s been with me now about eight months. He will also be getting specialised training in the USA.”
Cayman Automotive has also purchased fault code computer scanning equipment needed to determine what has gone wrong with electric vehicles. Mr. Felder said his company would also do its own repairs with parts ordered from the United States, if necessary.
Although fully electric powered vehicles are not allowed on Cayman’s roads, Cayman Automotive has sold some electric cars to Camana Bay and also to the Flowers Group, mainly for security patrol purposes in parking lots. He said the company has had to make repairs on electric vehicles for both of those companies in the past year.
“On most of my cars [the warranty] is two years, 24,000 miles bumper-to bumper,” he said, adding that for some vehicles that’s reduced to a one-year, 12 month warranty.
“If you don’t serve your customers, you won’t be in business very long.”
Mr. Felder said the situation would be the same with anyone importing an American car out of the US who isn’t an authorised Chevy dealer. “They all do the same thing. They void the warranty on the vehicle,” he said.
In any case, Mr. Felder said the Chevy Volt won’t be his “bread and butter” car when he begins selling electric vehicles in Cayman – assuming that the government does change the law to allow those vehicles to be registered. Both Premier McKeeva Bush and senior civil servant Kearney Gomez have pledged to bring such a law before the Legislative Assembly. The two electric vehicles Cayman Automotive intends to import are the Wheego Life from the US, and the Tazzari Electric, which is made in Italy. He said those cars, entirely run on electric, travel between 65 and 85 miles per hour and can go 100 miles on a charge.
“They’re perfect for Cayman, perfect,” he said.
Although lawmakers have not produced any specific draft legislation that would amend the country’s Traffic Law to allow for electric cars, it’s believed two separate classifications for the vehicles will be proposed. The slower travelling,shorter range vehicles may be considered “neighbourhood electric vehicles” – for use on local roads where the speed limit does not get above 25-30 miles per hour.
Faster electric vehicles would then be registered along with all other automobiles for use on thoroughfares and roads above 30 miles per hour.
Plans are also in the works to create electric car charge-stations, but Mr. Felder said he wants to wait on those proposals until the government approves electric cars for road readiness.