Chevy Dealer Talks About Bolt Sales Cannibalizing Volt Sales

Chevrolet Bolt



2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

A recent interview with a highly respected Volt/Bolt dealer, owner, and friend of InsideEVs is informative and telling.

It is not the first time we have heard that the Chevrolet Bolt stealing Chevrolet Volt sales … but at the same time, it’s what we could only hope for right?  Not specifically that one of America’s most loved plug-in models is losing sales, but a general public transition from PHEV to pure EV.  That is ultimately the endgame one suspects.

But to see Bolt EV sales accelerate of late is a truly amazing revelation. But, the Volt is a great car and the true king of long-range PHEVs by a wide margin. No worries, however, it will all add up in the end. GM seems to have its clothes on right (at least we think so).

Volt Bolt

Chevrolet Volt

WardsAuto noted that now the Chevrolet Bolt is not only available nationwide, but also on sale at places like Costco, which is super huge! Not to mention the forward self-driving development that’s already underway and gaining ground exponentially, and the fact the GM has committed to 20 new electric vehicles in the next five years.

Buzz Smith, a friend of InsideEVs (publicly referred to as an “EVangelist”), and a highly respected EV salesman and owner, had a whole lot to share with Wards.

According to Buzz, Volt sales have dropped 60 percent at his dealership since the Bolt EV hit the market, overall Volt sales were off almost 40% last month, and have now decreased year-over-year for 7 consecutive months.

But to him, a sale is a sale. While GM’s Orion Twp. facility, which makes the Bolt and the Sonic, has seen an upturn in activity as of late, Detroit-Hamtramck assembly has stopped making the Volt for the remainder of 2017 (along with a handful of other passenger cars). Buzz told WardsAuto that many of his Volt owners have made the switch:

“Some of them even timed the expiration of their Volt lease to coincide with the Bolt launch.”

In some markets, incentives have made the Bolt the better buy, especially since the two cars are not priced too far apart (the Bolt starts at $3,500 more). San Francisco Bolt owner, Chadwick Wyler, shared:

“I originally wanted a Volt, but the incentives made the Bolt more competitive.

After doing the research, I challenged myself. There have been 100-mile-range (160-km) EVs on the market for a few years and those people were doing fine. I wanted to be an early adopter, too.”

Cleveland-based long-time Volt owner, Lucy Cooley, had planned to opt for a second-gen Volt. However, she changed her mind quickly:


Inside the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt

“Once the Bolt became available, it was no more thoughts of Volt Gen 2. (We) tried so hard not to burn gas in the Volt – almost obsessive about it

The new obsession is one-pedal diving.”

Though she was clear to say that they’ve kept the old Volt, too:

“We love it and the resale value seemed too low.”

GM told Wards that the Bolt is just arriving in a better market than its older sibling. People understand about EVs now and some even appreciate them. When the Volt premiered back in 2011 it was difficult for the automaker to educate people about how it worked. Now, green-friendly advocates will likely choose the Bolt over the Volt when given the choice. GM’s Jim Cain explained:

“There are customers for pure-electric vehicles who would not consider anything with a tailpipe.”

While some dealers have been successful in selling the Volt and informing consumers correctly, others have not. Steve Majoros, director of marketing, cars, and crossovers at GM told Wards:

“We have some dealers that are phenomenal at it and some that are OK.

What does it take to move a dealer from OK to phenomenal? It takes a lot.”

Buzz Smith has a showroom in his dealership that is Bolt/Volt specific. He’s named it Electric Avenue. Wards says it’s much like an Apple store and it’s unique to any other Chevy dealer. Most dealerships, especially those in Smith’s area of Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, promote the pickup truck first and foremost. Buzz added:

“Texas is a lot like everywhere else. Yeah, 60% of sales are trucks but we still sell a lot of cars and crossovers, and people are always coming in looking for better fuel economy.

Fun and fuel economy are no longer exclusive. I had a customer come in recently looking for better fuel economy but said she also autocrosses. I pointed her to the Bolt.

And once you plant a seed with that first plug-in, their next car will be a plug-in, too.”

He’s not worried about the fate of the Volt, however. He concluded:

“The Volt will rebound. It is still a much more logical choice for people who travel.”

Source: WardsAuto

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40 Comments on "Chevy Dealer Talks About Bolt Sales Cannibalizing Volt Sales"

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Depends on the angle one takes. I would say the presence of the Volt in a showroom helps the dealer sell both cars. Instead of an ‘ours vs. theirs discussion, it becomes a Volt or a Bolt discussion.

It’s Hard To Sell A Chevy Volt When You Don’t advertise it.

(⌐■_■) Trollnonymous

I think everyone knew this was going to happen.

I wonder if that’s why Bolt is priced as such. If priced at $35K or even same as Volt, it’d really kill Volt sales.

I doubt GM is pleased about it, and would be surprised if they’re shooting for higher Bolt sales. The interiors don’t really seem to compare.

I don’t doubt the Bolt’s pep, and weight distribution for Auto-X. People are coming to appreciate how much better pure EVs handle.

I really feel like early Bolt adoption is occurring in the same areas and with the same people who early Volt adopted.

To counter this GM should be finding ways to advertise the Volt to people who wouldn’t consider an EV because of lack of infrastructure or simply worries about lack of infrastructure.

So basically sell a Bolt to a Volt or Plug-in Prius owner, sell a Volt to a Prius or Camry (regular old car) owner. I really think it can be done, a lot of people love their Volts who never considered themselves any kind of Ed Begley, Jr. type.

GM has never really spent any time advertising the Volt. Maybe it’s time to end that and to start converting regular ICE owners to Volt owners.

Conquest sales from Pacific Rim car brands to US car brands has traditionally been difficult. Most of the movement in the last 50 years has been in the other direction. I’m not sure how well they are going to do at pulling that off if that is their path to recovering sales. Traditionally, US car makers have had a much better success rate at conquest sales from other “Big 3” car makers. If they want conquest sales, they need to figure out how to fish from their backyard pond and build a PHEV that appeals to their traditional “Big 3” market demographics. Stealing sales from Toyota was Bob Lutz’s obsession, and a major reason why he pushed the Volt to the GM board in the first place. But those sales failed to hit initial targets. They did manage a fair amount of conquest sales even though they were well below initial targets, but those conquest sale customers also seem to be the least satisfied with their Chevy dealership experience. I’m not sure what magic GM has to turn that around at this late point, especially as the Pacific Rim car makers are starting to finally put PHEV’s and EV’s into… Read more »

The Volt has gotten them conquests from Pacific Rim brands in California, one of the hardest places to do it. So backing off would be actually be giving up on something you already succeeded with.

A couple years ago the last domestic car dealership closed in San Francisco, leaving only imports. If they can make conquest sales for Chevy Volts in Northern California, they could do so in Colorado too I think. And Georgia. And Idaho. They would have to start by introducing more people to EREVs. They haven’t done much of that so far, mostly going by word of mouth. Word of mouth only goes so fast.

I think the CUV issue is a separate one. Obviously CUVs are a big market segment right now. They have to have Boltec and Voltec CUVs soon no matter what else they do.

Yes, I mentioned their limited success in conquest sales, but it wasn’t anywhere near the level they needed. It was only good for 23,461 out of their stated goal of 40,000. It has been 5 years.

Word of mouth is slow, but the Volt isn’t even on track to hit their 2012 sales numbers this year. And that’s after the GEN II refresh.

They need to take drastic action, not just fiddle around the edges. Mass conquest of Prius customers like Bob Lutz imagined has failed. 40K in sales was supposed to be just the start in a leapfrog of the Prius, with even higher sales the real target. Now Toyota is finally starting to get serious, and the leapfrog opportunity is closing.

GM told me they were working on a Equinox-type SUV with the Bolt’s drivetrain back in January, so maybe its getting closer to a reveal (although 2019 is probably going to be when it happens).

I was certain we’d see a reveal this January at NAIAS. But if the tax credit is going away I’m not as sure.

I think the answer is for GM to offer an all electric version of the Volt. That way there would be two 100% Ex’s. It seems like a win-win for GM and their customers.

The Volt lost my sale, with the lack of rear seat headroom. It was simply dropped from the list. The Bolt is replacing Volts because of more than just 100% electric driving.

Had GM put out a wagon variant to redesign that steep roof line drop, they could have preserved and increased Volt sales.

GM doesn’t really listen to customer input.
The Mexican Cruz Wagon did Not fix the headroom problem.
That’s simply amazing.

So, a Voltec Drivetrain, in a Bolt Body, with Volt Seats, and a 40-45 kWh Bolt Battery, plus 6-10 Gallons of Fuel: EREV Extraordinare! (~150 Miles EV Range, Plus another 180-300 miles on gas!)

Then put that drive Package in a SUV, adding the Bolt EV Motor to the Rear, for the All Wheel Drive, and faster 0-60 Numbers! Possibly giving it a good Towing option!

And 5000# tow package too.

I bought my Bolt from them. From Tim, not Buzz. Both of them are awesome to chat with and know a lot about EVs.

Very EV friendly dealer overall from sales to service. They took care of recalls, tire “rotations” (flips lol) and such on my Spark EV. Buzz was the one who sold off my Spark EV trade in just 2 days! In Texas!

So he knows how to sell a plug-in. And if Volt sales are off that much for them… I can only imagine how difficult it has become for the average dealer to sell Volts now that Bolts are on lots.

But I’m glad to know he thinks sales will rebound. 🙂

In the words of the sales guy at the nearest Chevy dealer: ‘Bolt you say? Yeah we don’t have any. We had a couple a few years ago and couldn’t get rid of them. Got rid of one on a dealer to dealer trade and nearly gave the other one away just to get it off our lot. We don’t stock them anymore.’*
*Yes I’m aware he’s conflating Volt and Bolt.

Benefits of a Bolt EV over the Volt most would notice on a single test drive, Bolt EV:
Feels bigger and more spacious…
Looks more crossover-ish…
Larger screen…
Much quicker 0-60 (especially 30-60)…
Self sealing tires…
One pedal driving that goes to a complete stop…
Surround Camera on Premier…

Despite the Volt offering ACC, it isn’t like it’s standard on the pure base, literally every single option has to be added before you add ACC…

Oh and the “dead pedal” on the Volt is very far Aft…I hated it at first, got used to it on drives 20mins or less but drive over a 30mins and I was very uncomfortable…

“GM told Wards that the Bolt is just arriving in a better market than its older sibling. People understand about EVs now and some even appreciate them. When the Volt premiered back in 2011 it was difficult for the automaker to educate people about how it worked.”


GM kept telling people that the Volt wasn’t a hybrid and had terrible marketing that didn’t explain what it was. Surprise, surprise, it was hybrid owners who were most likely to understand that it was indeed a hybrid.

They priced the Volt over $40k. Sales sucked. Then they offered cheap leases and significant incentives and sales numbers jumped.

Tesla sales and Model 3 reservations showed that the market is there if manufacturers can deliver vehicles at the right price.

Add in the incentives and they can steer buyers to different vehicles.

I’m now very worried about the EV tax credit. Starting to see reports of it being phased out as part of the new GOP tax plan.

I think this could have a major effect on EV sales if OEMs are not able to drop prices accordingly. Even if OEMs are able to adjust pricing, it will cut into the already low margins on EVs. This is bad news for everybody considering an EV or PHEV.

I can’t possibly see how it would survive a Republican overhaul of the tax system. The cornerstone of the Republican tax plan is to gut tax incentives and replace them with lower tax rates.

A memo from the person in charge of Trump’s tax policy for his transition team was leaked last year. And they have been following the memo verbatim every chance they get.

When it comes to the $7500 tax credit, they categorize that along with wind and solar tax credits as “job killing subsidies taking American jobs”. Their policy is to end energy subsidies and have the free market take over — except when national security is at stake.

The national security loophole is their big oil loophole that you can drive an oil tanker through — because we can’t fight wars without oil, right? Gotta have oil subsidies for national security and the love of the soldiers. You wouldn’t want to disrespect the soldiers by ending subsidies to their life saving oil, would you pinko commie? I wish I could /sarc that if it weren’t so real.

At least in this instance, I agree with you Nix. 🙂 I think those who were/are anticipating a tax credit are F’d!

This is low-hanging fruit for the GOP. The only people they’re going to piss off are the ones that didn’t vote for them anyway.

My only question is, will this affect the 2017 tax filing or will those buying in 2017 be spared?

The oil frackers have 24 special tax code advantages. None of them are being cut.

This isn’t about policy.
It’s about Corporate Bribery.

Passing the house? Possible.

Passing the senate? With a razor thin majority, a few Trump haters, a few senators on their way out without reelection, and John McCain? I doubt it would pass.

Something tells me that with the amount of money GM, Tesla, Nissan and BMW have put into BEVS and PHEVs, we should see some lobbying from them telling congress why this is a terrible idea.

GM has issued a response to this:

“Update, 1:05 p.m.: GM has sent along a response:

Tax credits are an important customer benefit that can help accelerate the acceptance of electric vehicles. Because General Motors believes in an all-electric future, we will work with Congress to explore ways to maintain this incentive.“

Volt has done its job. For its size and segment, Bolt makes more sense over the Volt. More performance, more room, more cargo, more efficiency, what is not to like?

It is time for GM to move Volt’s core technology into a larger Crossover like Equinox which won’t compete directly against the Bolt as GM had indicated as future plan. That will buy GM few more years until there is a good midsize Crossover BEV.

Most of the original Volt owners want electric but didn’t have choice. Volt was/is a fine car. But once people find 200 miles to be more than enough for 98% of their need, they find the Bolt much more appealing than the Volt. Most Volt owners are trying to avoid using gas anyway. So, Bolt is a natural progression. If I have to get rid of my Volt today, I would seriously considering replacing it with a Bolt rather than the gen2 Volt. Overall, I would be happy with either. But I am tired of getting left in the dust by fellow Bolt owners on the road. =)

This makes sense. I was waiting for the Voltec drivetrain in a larger car (like the Malibu for instance), but a small SUV would allow for larger batteries to keep a reasonable minimum battery only drive distance.

In Western NY we have the opposite problem. No volts in stock at dealerships – they’re sold as fast as they come in, but they can’t give away (it seems) the Bolt evs.

Hey Bill, agree with the lack of Volt inventory in NY.

But I’ve been surprised at some of the Bolt EV inventory moving. I was looking at Bob Johnson for a possible Bolt EV, Just toying with the idea. They had 29 in stock 2 week’s ago, down to 18 as of 2 days ago. Seemed impressive!

We have one of each. Can’t really own a bolt without a second car, it just doesn’t go far enough on the highway on one charge. But I prefer driving the Bolt, one pedal driving, easier to get in and out, better visibility, smaller, faster, no ice engine to have to listen to every day, and doesn’t drag the front end when pulling out of parking lots.
Had gm or anyone else made a small SUV with 4wd with 150 mile ev range and an ice engine for longer trips I would have bought it instead of the bolt or any other full ev. That would get me the vehicle I really want, 90%+ driving on electric and the ability to road trip as needed. We had to use the Volt this week as we did a ~260 mile day trip to a town that had no dcfc stations. Can’t do that trip in a bolt without staying overnight even using a level 2 charger.

Volt was always a stand-in for me because a Tesla was too expensive. Now that there’s a cheap alternative there’s no way I’ll buy another Volt.

Chevy did a nice job with the Bolt and I love the size/versatility compared to the Model 3. That said, I’ll have to wait and drive the Model 3 before I dump what is now my second Volt.

Just a little ways to go.

Twice a month or so I have to make a 160 mile round trip on freeway with 70mph sections. In summer the Bolt might do it but in winter? Forget it. It’s this sort of situation where the Volt shines (although it still feels like a defeat to add gas).

It’s also way easier for a dealer sales rep to sell a Bolt. It’s an awesome car powered by electricity. You can drive at least 200 miles in it, sometimes up to 240 miles. You plug it in at night and that’s it.

Volts are awesome, but explaining a plug-in hybrid is more complicated (different) than an ICE.

The Chevy Volt was never meant to be the end, it was always a means to the end. A fully electric vehicle was always the end goal, so it’s a good thing that the Chevy Bolt is cannibalizing the sales of the Chevy Volt. I have a 2016 Chevy Volt because at the time there were no affordable 200 plus miles range electric vehicles. Now that there are, my next car will be all electric. I look forward to the day when all new car sales will be Electric.

I have 30,000 miles on my Gen 2 17 volt Lt. I test drove the bolt and as soon as I got back in my volt I knew I did not want the bolt even though I am sold on pure Electric and try never to run on gas. I’m now considering trading in my volt for a premier volt taking advantage of the tax credit to help the negative equity.

I had one of the first Volts in Canada. Love everything about the Bolt – except how it looks. So added a Gen II Volt to the stable. The car has to look good too.

The easy solution is dump the Volt/Bolt drivetrain into an Equinox – not an Encore or Trax – and all problems are solved. Come on GM. I was a conquest customer and you will no longer have me if you don’t up your offerings.

Wish the Bolt was actually available nationwide. There are not any to even look at around Savannah. They are all sitting in California.(We also don’t get Costcos here)

The closet Volt to you is in Charleston, SC.

But there are 36 Bolts within 200 miles Atlanta Metro area.

So, it is demand driven. Savannah is a relatively small market.

I mean Bolt.

Volt is great for long distance travel. We’ve done 40,000 plus miles. In the NE US easy to find a hotel to plug in overnigbt. Bolt to be useful needs high speed charging. That network is not yet there. If in 2 years when kur Volt is paid for, we will look @ Tesla’s charging network & the new Model 3.
Also, evaluate US high speed charging network.