Grading 2016 Chevrolet Volt & Bolt Live From 2015 NAIAS
Live From 2015 NAIAS: Grading General Motors’ On the 2016 Chevrolet Volt & Bolt EV Concept
General Motors clearly was the highlight of the plug-in scene at NAIAS this week. Between the Volt and the Bolt (I still find it hard to believe they will go to market with the name Bolt) no other automaker garnered as much attention from the press for its electric car offerings.
The Bolt concept is an interesting one, and one I certainly hope makes it to production. If it does, expect a late 2017 introduction as a 2018 model. It looked to me like a combination of an i3, a Honda Fit and a first-generation Mercedes A-Class, but somehow it all works. A 200 mile EV that sells for under $40,000 is something a lot of people are waiting for. GM has said they will bring it to market for $30,000, but that’s after the $7,500 federal tax credit. While it’s understandable why they want to promote the $30,000 figure, it’s a little disingenuous since it’s really not possible to know if that tax credit will still be available in 2018, or whenever the Bolt makes it to showrooms. Plus, not everybody qualifies for it. GM isn’t the only manufacturer to play this tax credit game when it comes to announced pricing though, and I’ve been consistent in criticizing the other manufacturers that have done the same.
The new Volt is a winner. I really like just about everything about it. The refreshed interior is the biggest aesthetic improvement to my eyes, and I really liked the layout of the dash and center console. The front seats were very comfortable and outward vision seemed at least as good as the current Volt. The only nitpick I had was it seemed like a lot of the surface panels were plastic, perhaps to help cut costs and allow a lower MSRP which has been one of GM’s promises. Still, the interior looked very good to me and I believe current Volt owners will see it as an improvement.
The rear seating room is what I’d expect in a compact car, it’s tight but you can still sit there pretty comfortably as long as you aren’t too tall. I’m only 5’8”, so I had no problem, but my head didn’t seem to have too much clearance so I’m thinking someone that is six feet or taller will find it a bit cramped. The fifth seat isn’t really a seat. Yes, there is a seatbelt there and you can use it if needed, but it’s basically a padded filler between two bucket seats. It will work for the occasional time you need to squeeze three people back there, but I wouldn’t recommend it if you need to use it every day, say to take the kids to school. Unless they are very small kids, it’s going to be quite uncomfortable for them.
As for the exterior, I really liked the whole package but I’d have to say the rear styling was my favorite. It looks sportier and more agile than the current Volt, and definitely more modern. I love the nose, but find the lower chrome grill just too much. It made me think of a beautiful girl smiling with braces. I suspect some owners will customize that by painting it or perhaps some aftermarket custom grills will become available. There’s just too much shiny chrome down there.
Overall, GM gets a solid A for their Volt and Bolt efforts at NAIAS. They introduced what could be a game-changing affordable electric car in a couple years, and successfully redesigned their current, successful plug-in offering. The Volt is improved in just about every way, and if GM can indeed deliver on the rumors of a lower price point than the current Volt they will most likely have a real winner.
However, it remains to be seen how well GM will market the new Volt. GM has been widely criticized by the Volt faithful for not properly marketing the Volt and that is a position I personally agree with. Nissan for instance may have started out a bit slow, but its LEAF marketing has improved greatly and not coincidentally, so has sales. In fact, LEAF sales in the US have increased every year since 2012 while Volt sales have actually declined over that period. I definitely believe marketing played a big role in those figures. GM needs to step up and give this vehicle the support it needs to succeed. If they do so, and manage to deliver on a lower MSRP, then I believe we’ll see sales figures much higher than anything we’ve seen on the Volt before, and well into the 30,000+ annual sales figures.
The engineers did their job, will the bean-counters finally give marketing a proper budget for the Volt? I really hope so. This car is just too good to continue to neglect anymore.