Monthly Plug-In Sales Scorecard

Op-Ed: GM Electric Vehicles: It’s the Mis-Targeting, Silly

4 months ago by Assaf Oron 188

Chevrolet Bolt EV coming off the line at GM’s Orion Assembly Facility in Michigan

The extended summer shutdown at GM’s Orion plant, where the Bolt BEV and the Sonic ICE-subcompact are made, has been spun in all directions. But it doesn’t look good. Sonic is a modest-volume car, so had Bolt demand gone through the roof we might have seen a shortening of that shutdown, not an extension.

To be fair, in EV terms the Bolt’s sales start hasn’t been too bad. A year or two earlier the numbers   might have been considered stellar (see full US sales of all models here).

The Bolt’s 6 first full months – 7.6k domestic sales and at least 1.4k overseas sales during the weaker front half of the year (plus 600 sales in its first few days at the end of December), delivered while only part of the US is open for sales – is better than the Tesla Model X start in late 2015 and early 2016. Sales aside, particularly impressive is the lack of any major product problems.

Bolt EVs outside Capital Chevrolet in San Jose/George B

But it’s 2017 now, and this is how the Bolt is judged:

– The Bolt’s 100+ inventory days are definitely worse than planned for this point in time.

– Head to head, the Bolt is currently outsold in the US by the Prius Prime PHEV, launched a month earlier with fairly minimal range, only 4 seats, and a parent brand (Prius) in freefall. This, despite most of the Prime’s production swallowed by domestic Japanese demand.

– The Bolt is being even more badly outsold by its veteran sibling the Volt, and nearly matched by the aging Gen 1 Leaf (that’s in the US; abroad the Leaf outsells the Bolt by orders of magnitude).

The Bolt was seen by the hopeful (yours truly included) as a potential game-changer. Its range-to-price combination blows everything else out of the water, and reviews have been overwhelmingly positive. Instead, we have mediocre sales, and GM squandering nearly a year’s head start on Tesla’s Model 3. Not many people thought that in mid-2017 the Bolt would only be #5 on the US year-to-date scorecard, despite directing almost all production volume domestically. What’s going on?

Through the first half of 2017 plug-in sales in the US, the Chevy Volt has outsold the Bolt EV 10,932 to 7,592

The Main Fail: Target the Wrong Segment, or no Segment at all

By far the biggest reason for the Bolt’s woes, is the exact same reason the Volt has never fulfilled its huge potential. Twice in a row, GM has developed a flagship mass-market EV without targeting any major segment or constituency of the US auto market.

What segment did the Chevy Volt target? Its sporty design with 4 seats, looking bigger on the outside than its cramped interior, suggests either aging macho Boomers, or edgy twenty-somethings. But the former are not the best candidates for jumping first into the EV deep end, and the latter didn’t have the $$ to buy a Volt. This is not the Tech side’s fault. The Tech side doesn’t decide, “Let’s make a midsize SUV!”, or “Let’s make a 4-seater!”. It’s upper management, via product management and Marketing, who instruct them.

The 2nd Generation Chevrolet Volt added a 5th “seat” in 2016

The 4 seats and minimal space decisions, essentially gave up on more family-friendly segments. The environmentalist segment, small but hardcore, was also not courted too much for fear of losing conservatives, who are perceived as dominant among Big Three clientele. The Volt did get some greenies, some tech fans, lots of large fleet deals, and a bit of this and that – but the original design instructions doomed it to second-tier volumes.

With the Volt, one could argue that the CEO at the time was EV-skeptic and didn’t try too hard. That’s not the case with Mary Barra, who got personally behind the Bolt (and the Gen 2 Volt), and should probably be credited in part for its speedy development. But system-wide ineptitude and cluelessness about EVs cannot be cured overnight by one woman at the top with a magic wand.

What segment does the Bolt target? Its 5-seat passenger compartment is roomy. But the car pretty much ends at the back seat. Yesterday I passed by a Cmax Energi, thinking, “Ok, here’s another compact-crossover EV, maybe I’ve been too hard on Bolt?!” The Cmax definitely looked smaller than the cars around it, but reasonable. I looked up the dimensions: the Cmax is a full 10” longer than the Bolt, and also a bit taller and wider.

Inside the Chevy Bolt EV (InsideEVs/George B)

Yes, the Bolt is very efficient with its space. This what matters is how the car is perceived by potential consumers. For Europe where they value space-efficient cars, the Bolt nicely targets a major segment. Per the US size definitions, the Bolt is a subcompact.

Back of the Chevy Bolt EV

What proportion of US auto sales are subcompact, YTD in 2017?

  • Bolt, Sonic and Spark combine for ~4% of GM sales (and arguably, that’s generous b/c most Bolt buyers got it despite the size)
  • Yaris and Prius C combine for ~3% of Toyota/Lexus sales
  • Fiesta accounts for ~2% of Ford/Lincoln sales
  • Fiat 500 (with/without e) account for <1.5% of FCA sales
  • I may have forgotten an esoteric model here or there, but you get the idea

And the current trend as everyone knows, surely the folks at GM, is towards bigger and bigger. How can you mount a revolutionary assault on the auto market, when you target the lowest and most rapidly shrinking 2-3%? Moreover, most of these cars cost <$20k, so while the Bolt’s tech is demonstrably worth its price, people who regularly buy subcompacts don’t pay that kind of money.

Going up just one size class would make a world of difference for the Bolt. There are 2 compact passenger cars in the top 10 best-selling models, and 6 compact SUVs in the top 20. The SUVs in particular can fetch prices in the Bolt’s ballpark (after the Fed incentive). Make the Bolt one foot longer keeping everything else the same, and it becomes a legit compact-crossover, very close in size to the Ford Escape. 157k Escapes were sold in the US in the first half, nearly as many as all subcompacts put together.

If the Bolt’s EPA range was 201 miles, one could at least understand making it so small in order to stay above that psychological bar. But GM engineering surely knew a while ago that they were clearing 200 miles with lots to spare. Adding a foot to the Bolt at the back couldn’t have cost much more than ~5% of range, and couldn’t have increased its price substantially.

Chevrolet Volt – needs more room?

Of course, all this means that the Gen 2 Volt, as well, is still too small, because despite looking like a Japanese compact-sedan wannabe, the Volt’s overall interior/trunk space is much smaller, about half the Bolt’s. That’s 3 of 3 in EV targeting fails.

Why do GM keep repeating the same rookie error? My best guess is that the people in charge of targeting still don’t really believe they can sell EVs to “ordinary people”. The mis-targeting is then compounded by GM’s notoriously EV-apathetic (and often even clueless or hostile) dealer network, and by weak and inflexible advertising and pricing policies.

Nissan has had a far more challenging product to sell in the Leaf, and went through actual product-quality crises that GM has yet to encounter with its EVs (again, thanks to GM’s crack Engineering teams). But while continually improving the Leaf’s technical specs, realizing that every little bit matters, Nissan has also continually re-invented and revised the Leaf’s marketing and pricing approach, never leaving it “to sell itself”. Even now, when people were ready to write off the Gen 1 as dead, Nissan has gone all-out on the deals, even “poaching” many potential Bolt sales (including our own family, I must admit).

The next generation LEAF debuts this September (InsideEVs/Darren T)

Beyond all that, Nissan has embraced the Leaf as a flagship brand. They see no contradiction between still making nearly all their money off of ICE cars, many of them gas-guzzling monsters – and developing a flagship EV as the arrow towards the company’s future, including unabashedly courting the tree-hugger constituency. By contrast, GM seems afraid of its own shadow when marketing EVs, and unsure about EVs’ role in its future.

The good news are, the Bolt is only a few months old, it’s a great car, and if GM shows the needed flexibility, its EV sales can rapidly grow. Here’s what they should do, IMHO:

  • Export the Bolt (and the Volt) more aggressively. The Bolt is a ridiculously better match to Old World markets than to the US. Even Canadians seem to appreciate it more than Americans. So don’t be afraid to divert more and more Bolt production towards export. In particular, Korea where it was actually developed, will feel a special affinity towards the Bolt, and drivers there should be embraced.
  • As soon as the Bolt is available in all US states, they should start offering deeper discounts and in particular more attractive lease deals to push domestic volume.
  • Even more crucially, Mary Barra referred to the Bolt as a “platform car” for future extensions. They totally dropped the ball on doing that with the Volt. With the Bolt, this should start right now. A 200-mile Bolt-like SUV/crossover that falls firmly in the compact class is top priority. That’s what the Bolt should have been from the start, but it is certainly not too late.

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188 responses to "Op-Ed: GM Electric Vehicles: It’s the Mis-Targeting, Silly"

  1. Spoonman. says:

    I was all set to go look at a Bolt since my only complaint with my C-Max Energi is that I sometimes use the engine, but then I noticed that it doesn’t have air vents for rear-seat passengers. I put three kids back there; I need climate control to get back there. They seem to have really cheated out on the Bolt.

    And the Volt’s fifth seat can’t fit the compact car seats we use (Clek Fllo). Really silly.

    1. Mister G says:

      No air vents for your kids, that is child abuse to sweat a little..LOL I tell my son to get used to tolerating heat because it will only get warmer in the future. http://Www.co2.earth

      1. Tom says:

        Rear vents in a small car are completely unneccessary. I had two kids with a 95 Neon in Texas and Florida and it was fine. The front buckets offered a clear gap between the seats and the center front air vents got most of the ventilation and had a straight shot to the rear with plenty of power and good direction that it wasn’t blowing on the front passengers but was keeping the rear perfectly cool. There’s just a much smaller space in a vehicle like that and it’s easier to manage with some basic blocking and tackling engineering.

    2. devroot says:

      Neither of my two Prii had rear vents. How many cars in the compact or sub-compact segment have rear vents these days? In a larger minivan or SV, sure, I expect them to have it. I have yet to see them in a typical sedan, but I also admit that I rarely ever drive or ride in a sedan…

      1. philip d says:

        The Model 3 is confirmed to have rear vents. Someone had posted pictures of the back seats.

        1. vin says:

          B-Class Electric has rear vents. So does the e-Golf. And the LEAF. i3 has them too….

          1. vin says:

            Oops…not the LEAF and i3…

      2. Ron Morrell says:

        My 2010 Prius had vents for the rear under the front seats. I could either aim the dash board vents to shoot along the ceiling or use the heater vents to have hot/cold air come from floor level. Living in NM, never had much complaint from the back seat.
        2017 Volt does the same thing, but grownups don’t like hunching down under the sloping roof.

    3. unlucky says:

      The vents thing is bothersome on long trips. I can’t really figure out why it can’t have some center console vents. Seems like a serious mistake in a car of this price. I guess next time around…

    4. Joe says:

      Bolt (Ampera-e) is so perfect for the European market. Right size, right range. Already thousands of pre-orders just in Norway.
      I wish GM could allocate many more units to the old continent.

      1. veselin says:

        Good point, but GM sold Opel to PSA. I don’t know if it is for good ot bad.

    5. Martin Winlow says:

      Sorry, but that is the lamest excuse I have heard yet to avoid buying a real EV. Just admit it – you haven’t the guts to take the plunge and put your comfort blanket-ICE finally to bed (to mix a couple of metaphors) .

  2. leafowner says:

    They should have not made it look like a leaf but $10K more and maybe they would have sold some more.

    1. Gasbag says:

      The problem with the Bolt is that it is a proto-BEV released at the end of proto-BEV era. It is over priced and charges too slowly. LG’s engineers should be embarrassed for this travesty. A decent BEV should meet three requirements. Firstly it needs to be priced within $5K of ICEVs that it is cross shopped with. This is their first failure even after the $10,000 in EV incentives here in CA. If they drop the price by $5K and let people know they were just kidding with that MSRP then they should sell a lot more.

      If they paid attention to some of the freely available customer surveys then they’d know that the vast majority of drives typically drive 90-120 minutes before they take a break and that the majority are willing to wait up to 20 minutes for their vehicle to charge. Put the two together and you need a vehicle that will provide 90-120 minutes of highway driving and can add that much range in 20 minutes of charging. Add a 20 mile buffer at the bottom end so that people don’t suffer from range anxiety and a 10-15% buffer at the top end to people don’t have to experience charging taper and you end up with a minimum of 160 miles of range. In the Bolt’s case that means they need to have a minimum of 40 usable kWh and can charge close to 300 miles per hour.

      With the cost of ESUs what they are today they should have offered it with a smaller battery. The current cost ends up being about $100 per mile of range. A 40kWh vs a 60 kWh pack adds 7-8K $ to the price of the vehicle. The smaller battery would mean they could charge a more reasonable price like $29,995 and include DCFC.

      Hyundai is using LG’s cells and they figured out how to make a 28kWh battery accept 100kW charge rate. GM should have their own engineers figure out what Hyundai is doing and make a 42 kWh pack that can accept 150kWh.

      1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

        “A decent BEV should meet three requirements. Firstly it needs to be priced within $5K of ICEVs that it is cross shopped with.”

        That simply isn’t a realistic goal, so long as EVs are limited to low production numbers as compared to gasmobiles. It’s another chicken-and-the-egg problem: So long as PEV models are not made in numbers to rival gasmobile models, then (even if the car didn’t have an expensive battery pack) the unit cost for PEVs will be higher, and thus the sticker price must be higher.

        It’s a problem which will naturally fade away as future PEVs are made in greater numbers, but until that happens, there’s no magic way to handwave away the disadvantage that anything made in smaller numbers has a higher unit cost than things made in large numbers.

        “…they should have offered it with a smaller battery.”

        Absolutely not. Not only does a smaller capacity battery pack limit the car to a shorter range, it also limits the charging speed, and causes the battery pack to wear out faster as the years pass.

        Battery packs too small for general use are one of the reasons why the EV revolution is still stuck with less than 1% of the international market.

        Kudos to GM for raising the bar on that, by giving the Bolt EV a 238 mile range!

        1. Martin Winlow says:

          What the Dickens is a ‘PEV’?

          1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

            PEV = Plug-in EV. The focus of this website. That includes both BEVs and PHEVs.

        2. Gasbag says:

          > That simply isn’t a realistic goal, so long as EVs are limited to low production numbers as compared to gasmobiles.

          Well California is doing the impossible again. Here we get $7,500 in Federal tax incentives, $2,500 in state incentives, and in Northern CA $500 from the local power company. That makes it possible for multiple manufactures to get BEVs within $5,000 of many ICEVs…but the Bolt isn’t one of them.

          > PEV models are not made in numbers to rival gasmobile models

          A major impediment to increasing sales is the price which in the case of the Bolt even after incentives is simply out of line with the value of the vehicle.
          Hyundai, VW, et al are addressing this by designing platforms that support multiple drive trains. The Bolt is not a bad vehicle. If GM cut the battery size to ~40K then they could afford to cut the price to ~$30K. That would have allowed them to sell quantities that rival the Sonic.

          > Not only does a smaller capacity battery pack limit the car to a shorter range, it also limits the charging speed, and causes the battery pack to wear out faster as the years pass.

          If you do the math you’ll realize that GM needs to charge about $100 per mile of range. Not enough people are willing to pay for that extra range that they infrequently use.

          The Ioniq doesn’t have a problem with its 28kWh pack vs the Bolt’s 60/65 kWh pack? Only Nissan has had an issue with battery degradation.

          I think we can agree to strongly disagree on these points. I expect Nissan will release the next gen Leaf with a ~40kWh pack and a ~60kWh option with a $6,000-$8,000 price difference. If you’re right the 40kWh version should go over like a lead ballon…or a Chevy Bolt. If I’m right then the 40k will out sell the 60kWh version significantly.

          1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

            Gasbag said:

            “Well California is doing the impossible again. Here we get $7,500 in Federal tax incentives, $2,500 in state incentives, and in Northern CA $500 from the local power company. That makes it possible for multiple manufactures to get BEVs within $5,000 of many ICEVs…but the Bolt isn’t one of them.”

            Well of course, I was talking about an unsubsidized price. If you make the PEV (Plug-in EV) subsidies high enough, or (as in Norway) make the taxes and fees on gasmobiles high enough, then you can theoretically achieve price parity on anything. You can even achieve price parity between a Tesla Model S and a mid-priced gasmobile, in Norway! Well, I think they cut back on that, but that was the case for awhile, which is why Model S sales were so high in Norway until recently.

            “A major impediment to increasing sales is the price which in the case of the Bolt even after incentives is simply out of line with the value of the vehicle.”

            We’re going to have to agree to disagree on that; disagree rather firmly. The Bolt EV isn’t a perfect car… but then, what car is? With the current state of the art of EV tech, I think it’s priced about what we can expect from an EV equipped as it is, altho it does need different front seats.

            “If you do the math you’ll realize that GM needs to charge about $100 per mile of range.”

            Okay, let’s do the math.

            GM’s cost (that is, LG Chem’s price) for the battery cells is $145/kWh. Let’s assume GM’s cost for assembling the pack pushes GM’s cost up by 33% (that’s an estimate, not a fact), to $193/kWh. With an EPA rated range of 238 miles from 60 kWh, that’s 0.252 kWh/mile. That means GM’s estimated cost per mile is $48.64. Add in an estimated 39% markup for GM to (hopefully) make a profit**, and we get an estimated wholesale cost of $67.61 per mile.

            So no, your claim of $100 per mile appears to be inflated by roughly 50%, depending on just what GM’s pack assembly cost is. That may be a bit higher or lower than my 33% estimate.

            “Not enough people are willing to pay for that extra range that they infrequently use.”

            **I’m basing that on the difference between the wholesale price of the car vs. cost for parts, materials, and labor of manufacturing, as shown on a chart at the source linked below. That is: Parts + materials + labor = 61% of wholesale cost. Obviously that’s at best an industry average, and the actual cost for the Bolt EV will vary from that by an unknown amount.

            What you’re calling “extra range” is used every time the battery pack is charged, because that extra capacity means it doesn’t have to be charged as often, allows the battery pack to last years longer, improves the maximum speed of DCFC charging, and increases the resale value of the car.

            Claiming that a larger battery pack is “wasted” if you never drive the car further than its normal range, is ignoring several facts. It’s just not true.

            “The Ioniq doesn’t have a problem with its 28kWh pack vs the Bolt’s 60/65 kWh pack? Only Nissan has had an issue with battery degradation.”

            Hmmm, I seem to recall reading about similar issues with the i-MiEV’s battery pack, which also isn’t cooled with liquid or refrigerant.

            But I digress. We don’t know how well the Ioniq’s pack will age. It’s too new. What we do know is that the Model S’s pack ages surprisingly slowly… and it’s got a honking big battery pack compared to most other EVs. Most industry watchers say that the longevity of the Model S’s pack is a direct result of its larger size.

            Altho we can’t state as fact that the Bolt EV’s 60 kWh battery pack will age significantly slower than the Ioniq’s 28 kWh (I’m assuming your figure is correct here) battery pack, it’s certainly reasonable to think it will.

            “I expect Nissan will release the next gen Leaf with a ~40kWh pack and a ~60kWh option with a $6,000-$8,000 price difference. If you’re right the 40kWh version should go over like a lead ballon…or a Chevy Bolt. If I’m right then the 40k will out sell the 60kWh version significantly.”

            You’re absolutely right — I do expect the larger pack to outsell the smaller one, and outsell it by quite a significant margin. So we won’t have to wait that long to see who is right on that, will we? 🙂

            source:
            https://www.quora.com/How-much-does-it-actually-cost-manufacturers-to-make-a-car

  3. vdiv says:

    Sigh! Sorry, I have nothing good to say 🙁

    Good op-ed, but it feels like Assaf is trying to reason with a rock, it doesn’t bulge and it doesn’t change.

    1. pjwood1 says:

      He clears it up for a lot of people, though. Beyond the “people don’t want EVs” narrative, is how car companies have been aiming for precisely that.

      Folks not following this stuff are often unaware of how obvious it is, until after a second look at the doors, the tires, the four inches of leg room. I can understand pricing and cost, but setting things up for failure gets old.

      Nice piece, Assaf

    2. Dragon says:

      The fact we saw a surge in LEAF sales after Bolt was released is another likely piece of evidence that GM failed to hit their target audience. EV buyers waited for Bolt but after considering the details, LEAF made more sense. Not just in size, but why pay $5k more for more range when Bolt can’t fast charge for road trips?

      1. JeremyK says:

        The Leaf became HEAVILY discounted around the time the Bolt was launched. That’s why Leaf continues to sell reasonably well. Price is why the Bolt isn’t selling. Not features, marketing, or styling. That said, there not another 200 mile BEV to be found for under $40K.

  4. Thomas Moore says:

    You’ve missed the fact that the Bolt has no long distance (fast charging) infrastructure with which to make full use of its range. GM’s overriding priority must be to make a deal with Tesla on that, if they are determined not to duplicate what Tesla has built.

    1. speculawyer says:

      Yep. This is big. Why would people buy a long range EV without there being a good DC charging network.

      I’ve said it many times, the Tesla Supercharger network gives Tesla a HUGE advantage over everyone else. Even if they manage to start building better looking & performing EVs, only Tesla has a network that allows for fast & east long distance driving.

      1. unlucky says:

        Because with its range you can drive a long way without even having to recharge?

        Is this some kind of trick question?

      2. ga2500ev says:

        Range anxiety pure and simple. Two friends of mine owned Leafs. One turned her’s back in simply due to too many white knuckle coasts home. The only only drives hers on warm sunny days because the range drop in cold weather made some round trips with unexpected stops a dicey proposition.

        200+ miles of range eliminates the issues on the vast majority of ordinary trips. In short it clears a significant psychological hurdle.

        Now the bar has moved to road trip. However, the percentage of trips in this category is significantly smaller for most. I know exceptions such as the 120 mile each way daily commute exists. But that isn’t typical.

        ga2500ev

  5. realdb2 says:

    Great article.

    The Bolt EV’s shortcomings are a shame when you consider how much effort GM must have put into designing and manufacturing a 200+ mile EV for $37.5k.

    The football analogy would be the drove the ball to the 10 yard line but couldn’t finish.

    Here’s hoping the nation wide roll out and collateral interest from the Model 3 help the Bolt EV out.

    1. vdiv says:

      GM is so close, one step away, from EV greatness, and have been for decades. It is almost as if they intentionally don’t want to make it, find ways to avoid or sabotage the possibility of EV becoming a success. Why, oh why!

      1. L'amata says:

        GM’s Bread & Butter is the “ICE” Car ,so yes they are are intentionally avoiding EV’s as much as possible and Building “COMPLIANCE CARS” like the BOLT Only for the Carbon Credits, so that they can turn around and build More ICE cars. They Think that if they Ignore EV’s the trend will fade..GM and the the Likes of GM are in for a Rude Awakening!!

        1. MTN Ranger says:

          I think the realistic view is that the major manufacturers are waiting until battery tech (higher density and thus lighter weight) and prices allow for profitable vehicles. Nothing more. I see this happening in 2020, which is coincidentally when most companies are planning major EV launches. Until then some are just testing the waters.

        2. MikeG says:

          +1 This hits the nail on the head as to what the EV motivation is for every automaker except Tesla.

      2. philip d says:

        They could have simply made a CUV EV with decent cargo space and a little wider (1″ narrower than the Volt even) and it still would have had a range of 200 miles.

        If they would have just made it a familiar looking CUV that was also a decent performing EV with 200 miles they would have sold like crazy.

    2. Bonaire says:

      I am a Volt owner of 5+ years. Going to a perhaps smaller Bolt “just to have BEV” is not compelling. I can drive nearly all electrically now – and I have the engine for long trips. DC FC is not prevalent enough to rely on. I need to go to Michigan, not far from the GM Orion plant, in September. Visiting the EV Tech Expo in Novi, MI. There are relatively few DCFC along the way. My Volt will use the GC (Gas Charge) stations along the way and be fine.

      1. Bonaire says:

        In other words – there is only one reason to choose a Bolt over a Volt. That is “purism”. People have that binary “either-or” thinking. Either gas -or- electric. The Volt is just too good overall and is beyond a transitional decision – it is a smarter purchase.

        1. WadeTyhon says:

          Utility. We have both a bolt and a volt.

          The Bolt is now our go-to car and the volt is for commuting and long trips without DCFC. The Volt is a great car!

          However, The Bolt has much more space. It Is better for hauling groceries, our dogs, camping gear, people, and everything else. Plus it is quicker and more comfortable (to us).

          The Volt and Model 3 are better looking cars. But there are lots of reasons to own a Bolt. 😉

          1. Bill Howland says:

            Exactly. We’ll have to wait for tomorrow and later to see exactly what the ‘3’ and new Leaf have to compete with it.

            But as of today, there is no other vehicle made that even comes close to the value of the BOLT ev.

            Many ELECTRIC buyers, my self included, deal successfully with the car’s limitations, sometimes by just having a PHEV as the other car.

            1. Lou says:

              Bill: That’s exactly what I hope to do in
              another year or so. Trade in(if it still runs)our 2012 minivan for a used Bolt. Then we’d have a Bolt and a Volt. Right now a new Bolt is simply too rich for our blood. But used, that’s another story. Maybe GM will be forced to reduce the MSRP and selling price of the Bolt, we will see. In PA we are just starting to see Bolts on dealer lots(and often just one car available), so demand may be greater than supply. That will change though, and LEAF 2.0 and TM3 will or should have some effect on prices. Frankly, I like the Bolt, don’t think it looks dorky, found it very comfortable to sit in with much better road view than the Volt. I would like to see this car sold in numbers. Yes, the slower charge rate is an issue, but I don’t usually(almost never)travel more than 200 miles in one sitting. IF there were better QC opportunities, I think most people would overlook the slower charging rate.

              1. Bill Howland says:

                And I find that except in the extremely coldest weather, there is no problem going over 200 miles in a BOLT.

                I’m making a round trip of 270 miles next weekend with limited time or place available to recharge. This will be a bit more of a challenge, but I think I lucked out on the route.

        2. Tom says:

          They should put the Volt drivetrain in an SUV. This should have happened already. It’s a stellar drivetrain.

        3. JeremyK says:

          I’m going to have to make a decision between the Bolt and Volt within the next 6 months.

          Being a Gen I Volt owner since early 2012, I’m ready to make the leap to a full BEV. There are two or three reasons why I’m leaning toward the Bolt. (1) Better acceleration than Gen II Volt, (2) better form factor for hauling large items when seats are down, and much better rear passenger room for car seats, (3) It suits my needs for a 1-way trip I make regularly to mid-MI where I can reliably destination charge.

      2. speculawyer says:

        ” DC FC is not prevalent enough to rely on.”

        That is true…but that is also GM’s fault to some degree. They should have made an effort with other automakers & the government to start systematically building a DC fast-charge network. But they refused to even consider it.

        At least BMW & VW worked together to build corridors on the coasts.

        1. Jelloslug says:

          BMW and VW only made a charging corridor in name only.

          1. pjwood1 says:

            True. An “EV company” goes out of business if its chargers aren’t available…and functioning reliably. A car company doing what Assaf’s story is getting at, can just walk away from their “corridor”, blame someone else, and be more profitable for it.

  6. Unplugged says:

    There is another thing that has contributed to Bolt’s relatively low sales: Price. The Bolt is priced at the near-luxury segment, but has the amenities and look of a mid-$20,000 vehicle.

    There needs to be pricing by the traditional automakers that compete against gas cars, just not EVs. Tesla does this, with all its vehicles. This is especially true with the Model 3 which directly competes against the BMW 3 series.

    1. menorman says:

      Bingo. The problem with the Bolt’s pricing is that they built a $20k car to compete against a car being built with $35k cars, then had the audacity to price it at $2500 more with less features.

    2. SparkEV says:

      Price is the only shortcoming of Bolt. Had they made it $30K pre-subsidy ($22.5K post subsidy), it’d be better than any comparable gasser, and it would dominate that market. Sure, compact car segment is small, but being dominant in that segment would be substantial.

      1. speculawyer says:

        Everyone wants a lower price but the stories say that they were losing money on the Bolt as is.

        1. SparkEV says:

          They can offer lower priced option with smaller battery. They are “losing money” because they are not selling enough of them to spread out the non recurring cost. Sell them by the billions, and it’d make lots of money for GM even at lower price.

    3. unlucky says:

      For an EV it’s not priced in the near-luxury segment. It’s priced as an electric Accord. As is a Model 3.

      EV’s have a price premium right now. They cost more. It’s why there is still a rebate.

  7. Tim Miser says:

    As a Bolt owner and former Leaf owner, I do miss the size I had with the Leaf. Especially the width which in my opinion is the biggest shortfall of the Bolt. The seats are too narrow which is a shame because the headroom and legroom are awesome! I would gladly give up some range for 4-5 more inches of width.

    1. philip d says:

      I’m 6’3″ but I would prefer a slightly wider car and normal headroom rather than huge headroom and a skinny car. The Volt is pretty narrow and the Bolt’s overall dimensions show it being 1″ narrower than even the Volt.

    2. unlucky says:

      5 inches?

      The Bolt is 69.5″ wide. An Impala is only 73″!

      A Cruze is only 70.5″ wide. An Equinox only 72.5″.

      I think perhaps you have a bad grasp on how wide cars are and thus much “too skinny” the Bolt us.

      1. TwoVolts says:

        The seat width in the Bolt is a well documented shortcoming. 18-inch seats don’t cut it. A full 3 inches narrower than the Leaf.

        1. William says:

          Too True! A huge seat width shortcoming, but nothing beats the Range and Price, until later today, with the huge Model 3 Tesla News and Rollout Deliveries. The Tesla Model 3 rollout, will make some Non-reservation fence sitting future EV buyers, put their GM Bolt buying brakes on. The Bolt buying holding pattern will continue, until some substantial discounting starts tosweeten the Bolt deals later probably around this fall/winter.

      2. Tech01x says:

        Bolt’s front shoulder room is 54.6″ and the rear shoulder room is only 52.8″

        BMW 3 series: 55.1″ and 55.1″
        Impala: 57.9 and 56.9″
        Equinox: 55.8″ and 55.3″

        It’s a bit narrow in shoulder room up front, but much narrower in back. The Leaf is actually narrower in shoulder room. But the Bolt’s seats are part of the problem – between the narrowness of the seats and some are downright uncomfortable. Seems maybe something inconsistent with the foam in some cars.

        1. unlucky says:

          The rear shoulder room in the back of the Bolt is very bad with 3 back there. But it’s completely fine with 2. The back seats are very comfortable for 2.

        2. Richard says:

          I got my bolt info January, love it… except… seats are awful.. uncomfortable.. and as a techie, regular ota updates would be great and engaging

    3. Taser54 says:

      I think you’ll find that- objectively- the Bolt has more passenger space than the leaf and very comparable measurements.

      Bolt is 69.5″ wide, Leaf is 69.7″ wide. Both measurements without mirrors.

      Hip room. Bolt: Front – 51.6″ Rear – 50.8″ Leaf: Front- 51.7″ Rear- 50″

      Leg Room: Bolt: Front – 41.6″ Rear – 36.5″
      Leaf: Front – 42.1″ Rear – 33.3″

      1. Bill Howland says:

        Taser54 the thing with the seats is, I hated to optional premium Leather seats, but the standard plain jane Cloth seating surfaces are extremely comfortable to the point where I’d pay extra for them.

        Go figure. And the plain jane version is also extremely quiet. A few times I’d think I was going 60 mph and I find I’m going 82. The car seems to quiet right down the faster you go, which is odd since you hear all the inverter/winding noise at low speeds.

        My main complaint is with the AM radio, which is almost as bad as the Roadster’s was. Distant stations are drowned out by the inverter hash, and you must put the car in neutral to coast to be able to hear the station.

        The VOLT or ELR never had this trouble.

  8. ElectricGuy says:

    When the Volt was initially released gasoline was three or four dollars a gallon. The return on investment for an electric car at that time was dependent on the amount of driving but was generally a few years. Now with two dollar a gallon gasoline the financial incentive is lacking. None of this is the fault of General Motors marketing.

    I would add to the recommendations to General Motors lobbying to raise the price of gasoline back to four dollars a gallon. That is the reason electric cars sell so well in Europe. Gasoline there costs close to six to ten dollars a gallon. An electric car is a much better return on investment in Europe. By the way they pay the same price per barrel of oil from OPEC as the US. They just tax it more.

    1. menorman says:

      It is definitely going back up in California, which has historically accounted for half of all EV sales in the first place. With several new taxes and fees in place as well as new incentive programs available, the Bolt will sell well here, especially when GM starts putting cash on the hood.

    2. speculawyer says:

      A higher gas price would definitely help the Bolt.

      But do you really expect them to do that when 97% of their cars (especially their profitable ones) burn gasoline?

  9. Bonaire says:

    The general take is that consumer demand – on the whole – is not ready for the USA to push to 2% total Plug-in marketshare. Gas prices too low, complex thinking needed for EV ownership (including EREV) isn’t there yet, people just don’t care. Some already have good cars and don’t need to spend $35k-100k to get an electric.

    When a product is a high-priced “want” versus a lower-priced “family need” then it will not have a high take rate, as they say. Otherwise, we’d all have timeshares and boats by now.

    1. Assaf says:

      The Bolt’s price after the standard Fed incentive, is lower than the average US new car selling price.

      So your premise fails.

      1. menorman says:

        No it doesn’t. A Bolt at $30k is still a heavy lift for many people for a car that looks like a Honda Fit that can be had for half that price. Also, most people aren’t able to loan the government that $7500 until next April.

        1. Nix says:

          “most people aren’t able to loan the government that $7500 until next April.”

          Normally I would respond by saying to simply lease one, and that entire problem disappears. But from what I understand GM isn’t passing on much of the $7500 tax incentive back to the person leasing the car. (I don’t have personal knowledge)

          That is the bigger problem.

      2. SparkEV says:

        Instead of comparing to average new car selling price, which includes vast number of trucks and SUV, how about if you compare to average compact hatch selling price? Bolt is overpriced even after fed + CA subsidy.

      3. R.S says:

        New vehicle selling price, not new car selling price.

        If you only include cars, you are at 25k in 2016, I think. Full sized pickups, with their 47k ASP and 13% market share raise the new vehicle ASP quite a bit.

        1. Tom says:

          I would like to see the market penetration numbers as excluding trucks too. Would give a truer look at adoption rates. Same for hybrids. As an example, right now 1/3 of Ford Fusions being sold are either hybrid or PHEV. That the Fusion hybrid now sells as many copies as Prius is an undertold story.

  10. Mike Lee says:

    Great article! Some very good observations and recommendations.

    I agree with one commenter: presenting recommendations to GM might be like arguing with a rock.

  11. fred says:

    Good article.
    GM’s lack of support for charging infrastructure is mystifying as it shows disdain for the EV community and relegates the Bolt as a 200 mile commuter car.
    Its also marginally too narrow as a comfortable family car.
    It looks like a $15k econobox.

    Article should have discussed the Model 3. The marketing and branding around the Model 3 is amazing. I see nay sayers saying Tesla can’t possibly sell the model 3 for only $35k as if there’s some obvious greater value there. Folks who buy the Model 3 will fee like they’re getting a BMW on the cheap rather than a double price Sonic.

    A couple of typos.
    “Why do GM keep repeating” should be “Why does…”
    “The good news are,” should be “The good news is,”. News is a collective noun.

    1. speculawyer says:

      “It looks like a $15k econobox.”

      I think this is very true and has really hurt the Bolt. I suspect that performance specs of the Model 3 won’t be all that much better than the Bolt but it has FAR more demand because it looks good, strong brand, its sexy, etc.

    2. unlucky says:

      There’s no way. Look at the interior of the Model 3.

      If a person gets a Model 3, sees that and thinks they are getting a 3 series on the cheap then they have no idea what a 3 series is like.

      And there’s no way to fix a delusion that large with marketing. You’ve found a person who has already sold themselves a dream. They aren’t going to change their mind.

    3. Ambulator says:

      “Why do GM keep repeating” should be “Why does…”
      In England, and probably other English speaking countries, corporation names are treated as plural. So, it depends on who is writing it. It’s best not to worry too much about it.

      Your other point looks legit to me.

  12. Twonius says:

    Maybe they poisoned the well with the ELR but I still think the Bolt drive train should’ve been built into a caddialc.

    If Tesla’s shown anything it’s that there’s an appetite for premium EVs. Something between a Model 3 and a Model S (45-50k) with a decent hatch and 100kw charging would’ve been a hit I suspect.

    1. Twonius says:

      Or this could’ve been an opportunity to give Buick more of an identity (anyone remember the “ELECTRA”?). Consider that brand is positioned towards China which is also going EV this would’ve made a lot of sense.

    2. speculawyer says:

      Nah…Cadillac brand is not popular with the right people.

    3. unlucky says:

      I think you’ll find $45K-$50K isn’t between the S and the 3, it is square in the 3 price range.

  13. Jay D says:

    GM’s refusal to engage on charging infrastructure was confirmation that I needed to pass on the Bolt and stick with my Model 3 reservation. Draw a 200 mile radius around Seattle and all you’ll see is TESLA superchargers. However, go take a Bolt test drive. It is a straight-line rocket with great handling too!

    1. (⌐■_■) Trollnonymous says:

      “GM’s refusal to engage on charging infrastructure was confirmation that I needed to pass on the Bolt”

      +1

    2. Assaf says:

      Just checked plugshare.com. In a ~200 mile radius around Seattle, there are dozens and dozens of ChaDeMo (Leaf-compatible) quick charge locations.

      There seems to be fewer CCS (Bolt-compatible) locations, but they are on the increase.

      1. Assaf says:

        …oh, and in the same radius there are less than 10 Tesla supercharger locations. But then, Tesla drivers can use Chademo with adapter, while we are still locked out of superchargers ;(

        1. ga2500ev says:

          Yet another untenable cost argument. Anyone’s buy in to the Supercharger network isn’t going to be cheap. The manufacturer is going to have to kick in dollars. The EV owners will end up paying between 5x and 10x of the current $2k buyin that Tesla owners have. And none of this factors in the costs required to get Tesla capable chargers into vehicles that are capable of using that infrastructure. By the time someone is done adding up the cost, the vehicle cost will be in the Tesla S range, not the M3.

          It’s non-sensical for any manufacturer to buy into the supercharger network as they will instantly price their car out of any market.

          Anyone without an M3 reservation will be waiting until 2019 to get a vehicle. In addition there will be an ongoing cost even for those Tesla owners to use the SC network even after they buy into it.

          In short the SC network has a paywall that is quite expensive. It’ll be cheaper to get a Bolt now and lobby for the inevitable sprinking of 150kW CCS chargers strategically located around the country. Even charging at an average of 60kW (which the Bolt reportedly can do) means a decent charge to 80% in less than 1 hour. That’s approximately 192 miles of charge in less than 1 hour.

          And I reiterate, this is only required during a day long trip of more than 250 miles. Is it really worth 10’s of thousands of dollars in order to supercharge?

          ga2500ev

    3. ga2500ev says:

      “GM’s refusal to engage on charging infrastructure was confirmation that I needed to pass on the Bolt and stick with my Model 3 reservation. Draw a 200 mile radius around Seattle and all you’ll see is TESLA superchargers.”

      I think this is an unfair comparison. Tesla was founded as an all electric high end car company. Superchargers are a part of their branding for their all electric car company.

      Asking GM to plow $1 billion+ on a nationwide charging infrastructure for a plugin capacity of a few 10’s of thousands of clearly non luxury cars is untenable.

      Frankly I believe that the entire DCFC debate misses the point. For most people the long single day road trip is likely to be well less than 1% that most vehicles will ever take. So if one is charging 98% of the time at home or at work, 1% of the time using public charging locally, and 1% of the time road trip charging why is that final 1% seems to be the sole make or break item in BEV utility? To paraphrase Elon Musk does it make sense not to buy an iPhone just because Apple doesn’t have charging slots for them at the Genius Bars?

      The vast majority of the time, charging costs in both time and money are minimal. So why is it so important that speed records be set on cross country trips too?

      The missing part is that it is costly to set up ultra high power charging infrastructure. The upcoming ChargePoint Express cube infrastructure requires 3 phase 380-477V at upwards of 800 amps on site. Not cheap.

      Finally GM is rolling out at least one level of infrastructure by requiring that dealers that sell/service Bolts have DCFC on site. While limited to 24kW for the most part, it does mean that charging from empty to 80% will take only about 2 hours. If it’s possible to get this opportunity for the 1% typical usage model, it can certainly be helpful.

      The Bolt is already priced out of its natural market now. Insisting on even faster and more prolific DCFC will raise the cost even more.

      Sometimes I just don’t understand the obsession…

      ga2500ev

  14. rad says:

    I’m thinking a lot of people may be sitting on the sideline waiting for the Model 3 to compare to the Bolt before they make a decision. Sales may pick up (or die off) once the Model 3 is out.

    In Atlanta area, one dealer bought a Bolt (actually his brother) in California and shipped it to GA for road tests. He had a waiting list prior to being able to sell in GA. Another dealer I called last week had never heard of a Bolt. You mean Volt the salesman said.

    1. ga2500ev says:

      I test drove that Bolt in June. It’s a blast. As for other dealers coming online, it’s going to be a challenge. There will be lots of clueless customers talking to a lot of clueless salesmen which will end up making quite a few customers really upset. I would suggest that dealers that are selling Bolts to have a similar program as the bike shop I purchased my recumbent trike from. They had one of the members of the local trike club come out and do a presentation and a test ride. I found it helpful to have someone experienced in the conversation.

      I dread when someone else gets sent home with a low battery not realizing that it takes 60 hours to fully charge using the given L1 EVSE. That’ll be a terrible look for both the dealer and GM in general.

      ga2500ev

  15. AtlantaCourier says:

    Looks like GM is having its
    “PS/2 moment” but without the consolation of at least having enjoyed a PC moment beforehand.

    Great Article, BTW. The best I’ve read here in a while…Thanks Assaf!

  16. bro1999 says:

    Wow, I had to double check and make sure I wasn’t on Electrek by mistake.

    1. Mark.ca says:

      Your bias clouds your perception, bro. The points mentioned are points made by many posters here and sales fully reflect the fail of this GM experiment. This was supposed to be a ev for everyone, an ev that would take from Tesla mojo. I hate to encourage conspiracy theories but i honestly can’t understand why GM killed this project with giving it the present design.

      1. devroot says:

        We’re 7 months into the release of the Bolt. It’s a little early to declare it a failure. Especially since the car has yet to get nationwide release.

    2. Stimpy says:

      That’s your bias. The article was well written and very fair to the Bolt.

  17. georgeS says:

    Good article Assaf,

    I agree with most of what you say. ….except that I say GM management mis-targeted ON PURPOSE.

    “Why do GM keep repeating the same rookie error? My best guess is that the people in charge of targeting still don’t really believe they can sell EVs to “ordinary people”.”

    Disagree. They know they can sell EV’s if they want to. They just don’t want to.

    “With the Volt, one could argue that the CEO at the time was EV-skeptic and didn’t try too hard. That’s not the case with Mary Barra,”

    Disagree. That IS the case with Mary Barra she didn’t want to sell many either. If she had she would have put that power train in a more desirable body.

    IMO GM management purposely sabotaged this product to limit sales. I feel sorry for the engineers that did such a good job on the BoltEV.

    1. WadeTyhon says:

      “IMO GM management purposely sabotaged this product to limit sales. I feel sorry for the engineers that did such a good job on the BoltEV.”

      In 2014, prior to the early 2015 Bolt concept reveal, the Chevy Sonic had just sold 93,518 units in the US.

      In 2015, Those sales droped to a little under 70k.

      This year, the sonic will probably sell about 35k.

      Bad timing for changing buyer tastes? Yes, perhaps.

      Deliberate decision to kill sales? No.

      In fact, I think this is why Chevy goes out of its way to market the Bolt as a crossover. It is similar in size to the Trax.

      Besides, they are still on track to sell 25-30k Bolt EVs this year. I am pretty sure that is exactly what they expected for the first year based on statements by LG.

      1. georgeS says:

        Wade,

        What was their excuse when they did the Volt? They did exactly the same thing. THEY PUT THE POWER TRAIN IN THE WRONG BODY. That power train is better suited to a SUV type of vehicle. …and you would think after all these years the WOULD put the Voltec power train in the correct vehicle…..but no.

        GM does not want to sell EV’s. It is that simple….and in order to make that happen they put their well engineered power trains in undesirable bodies ON PURPOSE to limit sales.

        1. (⌐■_■) Trollnonymous says:

          They try so hard they even go to the prez to ask to revoke emissions regulations to keep selling dirty sloppy OPEC Gooo swallowers…

          http://insideevs.com/ceos-of-gm-ford-and-fca-call-again-to-review-emission-regulations/

        2. WadeTyhon says:

          The Volt? You mean the car that is still the best selling Plug-In all time in the US? That is essentially tied in sales with the much larger Model S for 2017? The car GM begged the Bush administration officials to not force them to scrap post bailout?

          Yeah, GM must hate the Volt. That’s why there is talk about the next gen Volt being a crossover. And the new cadilac SUV being spotted with a charge port.

          Chill out. Tesla and GM are both producing amazing EVs. Both companies want them to sell.

          Tesla is going to cream all competitors in the US with the Model 3. That is good. GM and Nissan will be fierce competitors for 2nd place. That is also good. 😀

          1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

            “Yeah, GM must hate the Volt.”

            To be fair, GM did really advertise the Volt in the first year or two of production. Even bought one or two Superbowl ads. But sales were far below projections, and so they quit promoting the car.

            Perhaps the small size of the Volt 1.0 was initially intended as a “toe in the water” to test the market before expanding the use of Voltec into larger models. Or perhaps not; perhaps the intent was to severely restrict the market for the car right from the start. But whatever the reasons, good or bad, it seems hard to justify the belief that GM keeps missing the mark due to incompetence. GM isn’t that incompetent.

            “Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. The third time it’s enemy action.” Ian Fleming, Goldfinger

            * * * * *

            “That’s why there is talk about the next gen Volt being a crossover.”

            Yeah, five years from now. At that pace, GM isn’t exactly pushing the EV revolution forward!

            1. WadeTyhon says:

              Well the Gen 2 isn’t even 2 years old. 😉

              Although I think they are likely to debut a PHEV SUV with the cadillac XT4.

              1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

                Right, what I’m objecting to is the idea that GM would sit around on its hands until it’s time to retire the Volt 2.0 before even trying to market a compelling Voltec crossover or SUV.

                Why not start now?

                If Tesla can make a (relatively) popular BEV CUV with the Model X, then GM certainly should be able to make a popular PHEV CUV by scaling up Voltec for a larger vehicle.

                And you know, I’m not the only one who thinks GM doesn’t do so only because it doesn’t want to.

                The quote below is probably 2-3 years old by now, but still mostly true:

                “Until we see Audi, Mercedes, VW, Toyota, GM, Ford deliver a BEV that similarly dusts their own top-of-line ICE product in performance AND value for money, there will be no effective BEV competition for Tesla. And this isn’t going to happen for a LONG time, not for technical reasons, but because ICE carmakers cannot remain viable companies if they start killing off their highest margin products. The ICE carmakers will put batteries into version of their products for the customers who ask for ‘the electric one’. They will build low-end, compliance BEVs to earn the ZEV credits they need without cannibalizing their high-end ICEs. They will build hybrids and PHEVs to get their CAFE and CO2 g/km numbers. But they aren’t going to deliberately kill off their top profit making products just to compete with Tesla — at least not until Tesla gets a whole lot bigger than they are now.” — Randy Carlson

                1. WadeTyhon says:

                  What it looks like they are going to do is start with a higher end luxury plug-in crossover. This might be an attempt to reverse the ELRs fortunes. Launch the new vehicle in the luxury category first at a higher mark up. Recoup more development costs on each vehicle quicker. Then launch the budget model.

                  http://gmauthority.com/blog/2017/06/latest-cadillac-xt4-spy-shots-suggest-a-plug-in-model-coming/

                  We can expect this in 2018. 🙂

                  Also there is a very good chance the Bolt pulls ahead with the Model X in the next 2 months of US sales.

                  There are legitimate missteps that GM has taken. The Bolt could be a bit larger. But no one was saying that in 2015 when small cars was a fast growing category for Chevy. GM dealerships range from really fantastic to so bad you never want to even take your car to them for warranty service. I am also 100% against lobbying for lower emissions standards and GMs decision to fight for dealership protection laws. Especially in my state of Texas. When I buy my Model 3, I want to get my state rebate check!

                  But it doesn’t mean they aren’t building great EVs and Hybrids. Or that they do not want to sell them. They are the traditional automaker best suited to meet planned ZEV standards. I get nothing but good vibes from Chevy, GM, my dealer, and my awesome, fun to drive EVs.

        3. Damocles Axe says:

          It really does sound like “conspiracy theory” to say GM designed a quality car, but doesn’t WANT to sell it…

          …on the other hand GM has not made their own battery factory. Don’t all business schools teach about “core competency”? The most important, most expensive part of an EV is the battery – and subbing that out to an overseas supplier doesn’t make sense.

          Then there is the point about obsoleting all the IP, the engine factories, the transmission factories, temporary drop in profits while they invest in new factories.

          Yep, GM doesn’t want the EVs to be too popular because it would be a pain to change how they do business.

          BTW – Why haven’t the completed the nation-wide roll-out of the Bolt before shutting down production?

        4. unlucky says:

          The Volt is a huge selling plug-in. And as you can see from the same drivetrain in a bigger vehicle, a larger vehicle requires a larger drivetrain.

          If you could make a Volt in an SUV at the price of a Volt it would have sold well. But you can’t. It would cost a lot more. And that would have hurt sales a lot.

          People really need to understand how important efficiency is in an EV. To keep the battery size down you have to make the car efficient. And that means small and slippery.

          A Tesla Model S and X get very poor efficiency, which means they need bigger batteries just to go as far as they do. And that’s why they cost $100K.

          You have to work with what is possible. An SUV Volt at a price people would pay was not possible at the time of the Volt 1 or Volt 2. Maybe later it will be with dropping battery prices.

          1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

            “A Tesla Model S and X get very poor efficiency…”

            Wut?

            Dude! You need to take off your reality-distorting Tesla-hater goggles.

            A reality check:

            2012 Nissan Leaf EPA rating: 75 miles from 24 kWh, or 3.125 miles per kWh

            2012 Tesla Model S85 EPA rating: 265 miles from 85 kWh, or 3.118 miles per kWh

            In other words, the larger heavier 2012 Model S85 has almost exactly the same energy efficiency as the 2012-15 Nissan Leaf, when the same EPA test cycle is used. That’s largely due to Tesla’s superior engineering of the car body to reduce drag.

            And of course, in later years Tesla bumped up the efficiency with dual motors and a more efficient inverter. Nissan only faked an improvement in the Leaf’s EPA range rating in later years (to 84 miles) by “gaming the system” of how the EPA figures the range, without improving the actual range at all.

            1. Ambulator says:

              First of all, I think there was a slight increase in the real range then.

              I think the change you are referring to was an effort to fix the erroneous range that the EPA originally gave it. As I understand it, Nissan originally made a separate option to charge to 80% or 100% and then the EPA foolishly averaged the range between them. To fix that Nissan removed the option to charge to 80%. Bad for battery health, but the EPA effectively forced them to.

              1. unlucky says:

                And just to add to that Tesla had an option to not charge to full and maybe still does. And the EPA never made them average that in.

                The Mercedes B-class electric did too (and maybe the B250e still does). And the Bolt also does. And none of these have to average it in.

                Nissan was on the wrong end of some specific and inconsistent EPA decisions. It’s not a case of gaming the system.

              2. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

                Why was it “foolish” for the EPA to average out the 80% charge range and the 100% charge range? Isn’t that an accurate reflection of how most PEV (Plug-in EV) owners charge their car… that is, 80% for everyday use, and 100% when they plan on a long trip?

                At any rate, it’s the same way they figured the Model S’s range. If the EPA was going to use only the 100% charge range for the Leaf, then it should do the same for the Model S.

                So, Ambulator, I most definitely will stick to my assertions that Nissan dishonestly “gamed the system” by eliminating the built-in option for 80% charging, and that they did that only to cause the EPA to artificially increase the Leaf’s range rating without actually increasing the real range of the car.

                It’s the same kind of dishonest crap that auto makers in Europe are using to game the MPG and range ratings used there. For some years I had a lot of respect for the EPA, for the way they completely revamped their rating system (after the “230 MPG Volt” fiasco) to be far more accurate than the one used in Europe… but then they let Nissan get away with gaming the system like that. 🙁

                From Business Insider: “Here’s Why European Gas Mileage Ratings Are So High — And Often Wrong”

                http://www.businessinsider.com/why-european-gas-mileage-ratings-are-inflated-2014-5

                1. Taser54 says:

                  That wasn’t a fiasco, that was the measurement using EPA standard at the time.

                  1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

                    Yes, it was according to the EPA’s test cycles at the time, and the ridiculous figure of 230 miles per gallon of gas showed just how flawed the EPA’s test cycles were.

                    Fortunately, the EPA revised their test cyles rather promptly after that fiasco, and surely because of that fiasco.

            2. unlucky says:

              “Nissan only faked an improvement in the Leaf’s EPA range rating in later years (to 84 miles) by “gaming the system” of how the EPA figures the range, without improving the actual range at all.”

              That’s not correct at all. The only gaming was from 2013 to 2014 when they stopped having the 80% charge mode because it was “anti-gaming” the system.

              The real range of a 2013 or 2014 LEAF is higher than a 2012 by quite a bit, over 16%.

              All Tesla vehicles are well down in efficiency. The 2WD ones are near the bottom of the entire EV list.

              Here’s the 2nd page of EVs from 2015.

              EVERY vehicle on the page has a Tesla drivetrain.

              The highest ranking Tesla in efficiency is the S70D at 101mpge combined. And there isn’t a single non-Tesla drive car below it. The list, when sorted by efficiency is all non-Teslas and then the Teslas.

              So keep your ridiculous “wuts” and take off your blinders.

              1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

                “The real range of a 2013 or 2014 LEAF is higher than a 2012 by quite a bit, over 16%.”

                This assertion from a GM apologist and serial Tesla basher, not backed up by any figures from a reliable or authoritative source, doesn’t mean much to me. Nor I suspect does it mean much to anyone who has read enough of your posts to spot your very pronounced bias.

                “The highest ranking Tesla in efficiency is the S70D at 101mpge combined. And there isn’t a single non-Tesla drive car below it. The list, when sorted by efficiency is all non-Teslas and then the Teslas.”

                You’re citing MPGe numbers, which have been shown to be quite erratic, as well as measuring electricity from the wall, not electricity stored on board. That’s a very poor metric for the efficiency of an EV. It says a lot more about how useless and nonsensical the “MPGe” rating is than anything else.

                Now, if you want to have a discussion about how Tesla cars waste energy when they are parked… then let’s have that discussion, and I’ll concede that Tesla cars perform poorly in that regard.

                But it’s rather disingenuous of you, to put it politely, to point to MPGe ratings when we are talking about comparing the real-world driving range of various EVs, and their energy efficiency as it affects how far you can drive them down the road after charging.

                1. unlucky says:

                  Pushy, the figures are on the EPA site. They are authoritative. The situation is well documented on here about how the battery saving feature affected the ratings and how if you simply don’t use it (and you can’t in the next model year, as it was removed) then you get the greatly increased range. Honestly it’s disgusting you are attacking me over using EPA figures to cover for your own error. Nissan never gamed the season. You made a mistake. This is where you should be owning up to it instead of attacking others as being bashers.

                  MPGe figures are not massively inconsistent. Yes, they vary somewhat from measurements from the pack because of charging inefficiencies in cars. Note that your from pack figures suffer much more due to manufacturers not giving us the usable pack capacity consistently. They prefer to market the larger pack rating figure.

                  If you wanted to make your own efficiency numbers you would have to divide distance by usable pack capacity, or by a measurement of total energy disbursed by the pack. You don’t have these figures. Therefore your figures are very inaccurate.

                  MPGe ratings do consider charging inefficiencies, but since the charging inefficiencies are also due to the manufacturers and not some random entity, it is completely reasonable to include that efficiency into the car efficiency as the EPA does. So you suggesting that measuring that and marking companies (like Tesla) off for it is unfair is ridiculous.

                  You are being ridiculous in arbitrary absolving Tesla and attacking others.

                  1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

                    “MPGe figures are not massively inconsistent.”

                    Unlucky, you have this bad habit of ignoring facts and evidence, and declaring something to be true just because you say it’s true. This is one example.

                    The EPA’s range ratings pretty well match what is reported in real-world driving, and that’s why I’m willing to accept them as authoritative. (Compare, for example, Edmunds.com’s independent range tests.)

                    Contrariwise, the EPA’s MPGe ratings do not match what people actually report, so naturally I reject them.

                    Your “appeal to authority” by claiming the MPGe figures must be right just because they’re on the EPA’s website… well, logic has never been your strong suit, Unlucky.

                    As for the rest of your arguments: I’ll stand on what I’ve already said, thanks.

          2. vdiv says:

            You know what is possible? The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, the Toyota RAV4 EV, the BMW X5 eDrive, the VIA Trux, the Bollinger, the Model X, the BYD, Proterra, Yutong and countless other electric buses, a battery electric train the UK, a battery personal quad copter, an electric plane or two, electric ferries and cargo ships in Norway. All that IS possible. None of that is being made by GM.

            1. unlucky says:

              Most of those were failures. One of those is $110K. A lot of things are possible at $110K. That’s why I mentioned that in my post.

              You can make a Xdrive with 12 miles mostly electric range or an Outlander with 24 miles mostly electric range but that’s not what GM wanted to do.

              GM wanted to make a plug-in that can be driven as an EV much of the time and one that was at a semi-affordable price. That wasn’t possible with an SUV at the time the Volt 1 or 2 were made.

              1. vdiv says:

                Point is they are not making them, yet they are possible.

                1. unlucky says:

                  Failure is also easy.

                  It’s easy to make a cheap plug-in. What’s difficult is making money on it. And if you can’t make money on it you are never going to make many of them and thus it doesn’t show the industry anything except to stay away from plug-ins.

                  GM didn’t set out to lose their butt on a plug-in. They set out to make a car that they could make for a lot of people and derive other vehicles from. Once that would set the direction for them and others.

                  $100K cars don’t do that well. Money losing cars don’t do it well. And failures certainly don’t.

        5. Ambulator says:

          GM does not want to sell EV’s. It is that simple….and in order to make that happen they put their well engineered power trains in undesirable bodies ON PURPOSE to limit sales.
          I find the Bolt body style extremely desirable. The charging situation: Not so much.

  18. unlucky says:

    The Bolt is so big inside I don’t need more length.

    You chumps can have a 200 mile longer car. I’ll take what this offers to get 238.

    Now if it were to get wider we could talk. But GM’s compact SUVs aren’t any wider. So that’s a tough ask.

  19. Didier says:

    I leave in Europe, France. I have ordered a Tesla model 3 even if the Bold size would be far better for me, I am not even sure the model 3 can easily enter in ma garage ! But you CANNOT buy a Bolt in France, even if PSA (a French automaker) recently bought Opel who is supposed to sell le Ampera-e ie the European version of the Bolt. The Bolt and Ampera-e are available in almost NO European country ! Furthermore, with a Bolt I need to keep my ICE car since it would not be possible to do all trip with the BOLT, while with the model 3 and the Supercharger network I can sell my ICE car, making the model 3 significantly cheaper than the Bolt. Not to mention the fact I have only one garage… So RIP Bolt ! Hello Tesla !

  20. james says:

    The Bolt is a fine car, but Chevy didn’t need a fine car, they needed an exciting car. Like the Volt, the Bolt is just derivative of a plodding everyman of a car. I loved my little Honda Fit, which the Bolt reminds me of, but it was never an exciting car, just a useful one. Chevy needed to make a heart-pounding two door muscle car EV. They would’ve had no competition, and they absolutely have the pedigree to build such a car. But, of course, they couldn’t because there is nowhere to put it in their lineup. If it’s not faster than a Corvette, then it doesn’t compete with Tesla, and their base is largely not interested in an electric Corvette, especially one that smokes their beloved gas-burner. At the very least they should’ve used their new expertise to build a GT40-like electric supercar, just to prove they could.

    On top of that, you have to have EV savvy salespeople and dealers, and that’s mostly a joke outside of California, at least as far as Chevy dealers go.

    Traditional carmakers are in a real pickle and have to unravel their entire business model to compete with Tesla, and for the most part I just don’t see it happening, I just hear a lot of nervous talk.

  21. Sam says:

    It is car design by committee, which always ends in everything being compromised. I test drive one. It’s size doesn’t fall into a good category for a family car. It’s too bland for young people. There’s lots of torque but the front wheel drive just breaks traction. I like my i3 better and I think the Model 3 will dominate. Tesla just has clearer vision.

  22. David Murray says:

    The Bolt is selling pretty much how I predicted it would. I think it is really good at grabbing sales for those interested in an EV, but not so good at grabbing sales from people who are interested in an ICE. So Bolt sales will only grow as the entire EV market grows. Tesla and Toyota are the only ones really growing the segment right now.

    I am not sure, but I suspect the Bolt could have had 150 miles of range with a $4,000 cheaper sticker price and probably had just as good of sales, if not better. I don’t think 238 miles is any better for cross-country trips than 150 miles being the sad state of charging infrastructure for any vehicle that doesn’t have a Tesla charging port on it.

    To start really grabbing sales away from the ICE market, they need to take whatever their best-selling ICE vehicles are and convert those to EV or PHEV and make sure they are stocked right next to their ICE counterparts. So that means EV versions of the Equinox, Trax, Tahoe, Colorado, and Silverado.

    Just look at Ford. They took one of their best-selling cars, the Fusion, and made an entry-level PHEV. And I suspect most people that buy that vehicle aren’t EV shoppers, but were instead shopping for a Fusion. Just like Prius Prime buyers are already shopping for a Prius, NOT purposefully shopping for a PHEV.

    1. Assaf says:

      That’s essentially what I was saying.

      This is the time to go after ICE consumers.

    2. Kdawg says:

      Personally (1 data point) I would not buy any BEV under 200 miles of real world AER. I’m sure others would, but if the sales would be the same.. why lower the bar?

  23. speculawyer says:

    This is pretty sad. It’s a good car and deserves much better sales.

    But GM keeps aiming wrong. You shouldn’t try to sell something that looks like a Yaris for $37K. You need to aim higher market and work your way down like Tesla is doing.

    But I guess when your big upscale brand is Cadillac…a brand more associate with Grandpa and pimps, that wasn’t a good move.

    They should have created a new brand & made it more sexy.

  24. Nix says:

    “had Bolt demand gone through the roof we might have seen a shortening of that shutdown, not an extension.”

    1) Summer shutdowns are normal and expected.
    2) The extension was to modify the line. To do the job right, it takes X number of days to modify and test the line. Those X number of days don’t go by faster just because more people want to buy one.

    I don’t care what demand is, GM isn’t going to pay OT to rush out the door by a few days a car that is a rounding error on their global sales numbers. That just doesn’t make business sense.

  25. Texas FFE says:

    I think the lease deals are what’s killing the Bolt EV sales. The $7500 federal tax credit is not clearly accounted for in Bolt EV lease deals. When Ford shows a $10,000 credit on the Focus Electric lease that reflects the federal tax credit and Chevrolet only shows a $2250 credit for the Bolt EV lease deals, people feel like they’re getting ripped off when they try it for a Bolt EV lease.

    1. (⌐■_■) Trollnonymous says:

      “Chevrolet only shows a $2250 credit for the Bolt EV lease deals, people feel like they’re getting ripped off when they try it for a Bolt EV lease.”

      That’s pretty shady.
      Where does the rest go? Dealers pockets Banks Pocket?

      1. Nix says:

        It goes into the pockets of the lease company. So it depends on what lease company you go through. Typically they try to put you though GM Financial unless you go through some other company for the lease.

        Here is the money trail:

        1) GM pays a fixed amount to LG for batteries/drivetrain/etc

        2) Dealers pay a variable amount to GM for complete cars based upon their volume, sales targets, etc.

        3) Lease company gives the Dealer the full purchase price that the lease is funded for in the lease contract.

        4) The US Gov’t pays the lease company the full $7,500 fed. incentive.

        5) You pay the Lease company each month. If the lease includes the full $7500 federal incentive calculated into the price, you pay less and the lease company gets less. If not, you pay more.

        6) At the end of the lease the lease company sells the car and pockets the money, and charges you whatever lease return fees they can and pockets the money.

        Their profit is the dollar value of 3 minus 4 minus 5 minus 6. If they don’t apply the full $7,5000 credit in #5, that’s more profits for them.

        If you lease through GM Financial, that is a fully captive branch of GM, so that ends up essentially being the same as GM pocketing the money.

      2. vin says:

        I’m seeing $4500 in California. More than the $2250 that perhaps other regions get, but it still sucks that it’s not the full $7500. I think that if Chevy offered $7500 to lessees from the get-go, this article would not have been written.

        1. William says:

          Spot on in your assessment!

  26. Nix says:

    1) Due to GM’s intentional state-by-state rollout that isn’t complete, and their marketing model that relies upon selling cars that are inventory, it is WAY too early to make any judgement on sales numbers. It won’t be until Oct/Nov until we have enough data on national sales numbers to say whether they are going to hit their 30K/yr sales target.

    2) Hitting a 30K/yr sales target when your manufacturing, supply line, and sales pipeline is set up to sell 30K/yr is the definition of success. Again, we are WAY premature in making a call on that. Especially since we all know that more EV’s get sold in the second half of the year than the first half, and we don’t even have numbers yet for July.

    3) I would be remiss were I not to mention the rumors about GM’s lease numbers not passing much of the $7,500 federal incentive back to consumers. (Can somebody confirm?) If GM chooses to change that one factor, chances are high that whatever short-fall they have could quickly be eliminated. Simply by getting people who walked away from leases they didn’t like to come back to the dealerships.

    1. Nix says:

      Revision: I think Texas FFE was answering my number 3 at the same time I was typing the question!! Based on his numbers, GM should have substantial room to change lease terms.

  27. Damocles Axe says:

    Has anyone seen a Bolt advertisement on TV?
    I see chevy truck commercials several times per hour, but I would never know the Bolt or Volt even existed but for sites like this!

    1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

      I can’t speak from personal knowledge, but others have claimed in recent posts to InsideEVs that Chevrolet not only isn’t advertising the model, they are very noticeably leaving the Bolt EV out of ads, even when there is a group shot of their various models.

      Sad. 🙁

  28. cab says:

    Assaf – great article and you really nailed it with:

    “If the Bolt’s EPA range was 201 miles, one could at least understand making it so small in order to stay above that psychological bar. But GM engineering surely knew a while ago that they were clearing 200 miles with lots to spare. Adding a foot to the Bolt at the back couldn’t have cost much more than ~5% of range, and couldn’t have increased its price substantially.”

    I though the same thing when they rolled out the door with 238 miles of range. All they had to do was break the 200 mile barrier (mostly a psychological and marketing barrier) and it would have been fine. I’d like to believe they just weren’t sure early on what the range was and then after-the-fact were like “cr*p…we could have made this bigger”, but who knows…they made the same mistake with the Volt twice. They coudl have played the sporty angle, but ironically, they now have two plug-ins and the sporty looking one (the Volt) is slower than the frumpy looking one (Bolt).

    1. Nix says:

      One theory on the 238 number is that it may help them get more ZEV credits.

      The ZEV credit system is based on the pre-2008 EPA range calculations, where 200 miles of CARB range equals around 165 miles of EPA range, and 300 CARB miles equals around 245 miles of EPA range. 238 EPA may have been enough to squeak under the 300 mile CARB category.

      From what I understand, that would be good for 5 ZEV credits until 2018, when the rules change. Then it drops to 2.88 ZEV credits.

      Again, if somebody can confirm, that would be great.

      1. Nix says:

        Further research seems to indicate that this is NOT correct. So please disregard.

  29. Neromanceres says:

    Honestly I think the Op-ed piece is a glance over with some miss-information and premature analysis.

    1. He compares the Bolt EV to a C-max on paper. Maybe he should have looked at some real world direct comparisons? Like this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OU19igqrgcA

    2. He brought up the miss guided 100+ days of inventory. Yes the Bolt EV has 50 states of inventory and you compared it to sales in 21 states. Of course the inventory number is going to seem high. There are still lots of people begging for this car. So it’s EXTREMELY premature to say the car is selling poorly. I agree with some of the ops suggestions however there maybe other forces at play. Remember GM pulled forward their production of the Bolt EV. So GM is likely production constrained for the first year and demand is higher than expected in international markets.

    3. The Bolt EV is a little bit bigger than the Chevrolet Trax, Honda HRV etc.. This is currently the fastest growing vehicle segment globally. So I think looking at what used to work is not indicative of what is going to work. Simply adding a foot to the end of the car sounds like a very American way of thinking.

    1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

      “Simply adding a foot to the end of the car sounds like a very American way of thinking.”

      I don’t know if it’s still true, but some decades ago, some witty person observed that American car models, like species of animals, tend to increase in size to extinction. 😉

      Maybe not just American, either. The current Honda Civic is much larger than the 1975 Civic CVCC which was my first car!

  30. Robert says:

    The Bolt is a vehicle that can not even drive from Los Angeles, CA to Phoenix, AZ.

    They need to consider that people use a car for transportation, and make a transportation system that works. Without chargers it does not work.

    1. unlucky says:

      It can. You would have to slow to 55mph but you can do it without any AC charging and just DC charging around Palm Springs

      Hopefully soon even that won’t be the case.

      It is 263 miles from Palm Desert to Phoenix. The car will make it at 55mph.

    2. Geo says:

      You will be able to within 6-9 months. Money for fast charging in both Desert Center and Blythe has already been allocated by the state of California. Installation should happen sooner rather than later.

  31. Travis says:

    It’s a bland design that cost way to much for what you get. G(overnment) M (otors) is still in bed with big oil.

    1. William says:

      Or, the other way around. Perspective can be Slippery, like a thin film of oil.

  32. unlucky says:

    I think anyone who is disappointed with #5 on the list maybe has been in the plug-in bubble.

    This list contains plug-ins. And EVs are a lot harder sell than plug-ins. To expect a pure EV to be near the top an immediately is rather presumptious.

    I’d like EVs to be huge right now. But right now they aren’t. The Bolt is in a big way a victim of this.

    1. Assaf says:

      Have you looked up and seen who’s at #1? And #4?

      Btw, last time the annual plug-in sales winner in the US was *not* a BEV, was 2013 when the Volt very narrowly edged out the Leaf thanks to some massive fleet deals.

      1. unlucky says:

        Yes. I’ve seen what’s at #1 and #4. $100K EVs.

        Lightning in a bottle.

        If you expected a new EV to come in at #1 or #4 you’re kind of nuts. EVs are still tough to sell.

    2. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

      “This list contains plug-ins. And EVs are a lot harder sell than plug-ins. To expect a pure EV to be near the top an immediately is rather presumptious.”

      1. Plug-in EVs are EVs. If you mean specifically BEVs, then please say so.

      2. PHEVs and BEVs have been battling it out for total sales for years now, with one type on top and then the other. To claim that BEVs are harder to sell than PHEVs is ignoring the fact, which is that they seem to be roughly evenly matched. However, to play devil’s advocate and support your side of the argument: With Tesla selling only BEVs, one could argue that the strength of the BEV segment is mostly due to Tesla. (But then, I think BYD would disagree!)

      1. unlucky says:

        No, ICE cars with a plug are not EVs. You want to call them EVs? Okay. I don’t have to and you telling me to won’t make it happen.

        If I mean plug-ins, I’ll say plug-ins.

        You really think BEVs and PHEVs are equally easy to sell? Try selling them to your friends and family. See how they receive the two options. Take a look at the sales in Europe or even the US now that the Prime is out.

        1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

          You should join the club with Humpty Dumpty, and claim a word or term can mean anything you like.

          But language has value only when we all agree on the definition of words. You can claim “PHEV” means “Poorly Hydrogenated Emulsified Vegetables”, or any other word salad you like, but to the rest of us reading InsideEVs it means “Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle”.

          Claiming the “EV” in “PHEV” doesn’t actually mean “Electric Vehicle”, Unlucky, is just ignoring reality, and is not going to win you any converts. It’s just going to create confusion and get you laughed at for your willful ignorance.

          1. unlucky says:

            You aren’t the official creator of word definitions but yet declare others must say what you say or be wrong. And yet you act like I’m the one who is acting irrationally.

            The “EV” in Electric Vehicle means like the “P” in Vice President means president.

            A VP is a president like a PHEV is an EV. A boat lift is as much a boat as a PHEV is an EV. An auto journalist is an auto as much as a PHEV is an EV.

            You can’t break a compound noun up into its constituent words like you are doing and insist that things which are true of the compound noun are true of the individual words.

            You’re on a roll today, Pushy. But not in a good way.

            1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

              “A VP is a president like a PHEV is an EV. A boat lift is as much a boat as a PHEV is an EV. An auto journalist is an auto as much as a PHEV is an EV.”

              Thank you for that perfect example of your mulish stubbornness, your refusal to face facts, and your refusal to admit it when you’ve been shown to be wrong.

              Priceless!

  33. M3-Reserved; NiroEV - TBD says:

    Gave up on the Bolt due to the lack of trunk. It’s still an urban or Euro vehicle.

    Like most America, we’ve outgrown out Spark and Fiat and need something larger to haul all the suburban lifestyle equipment.

    Hence — Niro EV, you’re the next kid up that has potential unless a revised RAV4 surfaces or Bolt 2.0 Extended cab 🙂

  34. Nix says:

    With regard to small size, “Why do GM keep repeating the same rookie error?”

    I think when they designed the Bolt they were looking at EV’s the same way they had been looking at EV’s since the EV1 (and even before then).

    It was considered gospel for decades that EV’s MUST be small in order to squeeze the most range possible out of the limited battery range. Everybody who worked with EV’s thought this way. Home conversions were done to light cars like VW Bugs. Even Tesla built their Roadster using the smallest sports car chassis they could get their hands on.

    Until the Model S and Model X, everybody agreed that if you were making a pure EV, you had to make it small. This wasn’t even controversial thinking at all. The Reva and iMiev weren’t tiny cars because of “mis-targeting the market”. They were that size because that was how everybody built EV’s, and this was how everybody believed that EV’s must be built. How do you get an EV to go further? Built it lighter, build it smaller. Maybe only 3 wheels (Aptera!)

    ________________________________________

    Now the Model S and Model X have spoiled us. 5 years after the release of the Model S, all of that is out the window. Ancient history. Now people expect Model S/X space without having to pay Model S/X prices.

    But let’s roll back the clock to when when GM started developing the Bolt to 2012.

    That’s right, 2012.

    http://wardsauto.com/technology/bolt-s-lead-designer-describes-clean-sheet-creation

    In 2012 everybody with enough experience to be qualified to work on a progressive project like the Bolt had long had the EV==small link etched deep into their brains. The Model S was an exotic unproven “other” in 2012, not mainstream EV design.

    Again, this is back when nearly EVERY fan of EV’s could tell you as a fact the same as the sun rises in the morning that you had to make EV’s small to eek out the maximum range.

    _____________________________________

    Fast forward to now, and we’ve forgotten about all that.

    What is a Reva?

    Do they really still make that old iMiev?

    Who was Aptera?

    Why do EV’s have to be small?

    Why didn’t GM set out in 2012 to build a CUV/SUV crossover and completely miss the 2017 market trends?

    I think folks should take a moment and look in the rear view mirror for some context and realize exactly how far we’ve gotten. And spend a little less time second-guessing what GM started out to do way back in 2012.

    1. WadeTyhon says:

      “Why didn’t GM set out in 2012 to build a CUV/SUV crossover and completely miss the 2017 market trends?

      I think folks should take a moment and look in the rear view mirror for some context and realize exactly how far we’ve gotten. And spend a little less time second-guessing what GM started out to do way back in 2012.”

      + 5

      One for every year of development. 😉

      Was trying to say something similar above. Was told it was just an excuse, just like their supposed failure to put the Volt in the correct body.

      Ironically, this was also a time when GM was finally building a portfolio of small cars that were not total trash… after being beaten up so heavily for having nothing but SUVs in their lineup throughout the 2000s.

      I wish more people had such a perspective. But sadly, emotional tyrades and ‘us vs them’ is more satisfying and makes for an easier narrative.

      1. Nix says:

        Thanks, I try to put together as much factual insights as I can when I post, and let the facts go where they go.

        The downside of what I posted is that it doesn’t change the fact that after all those years of hard work GM is still going to have to redo the Bolt and Volt to meet future market demands.

        Tesla may be in a similar boat with the Model 3 and Y. At the first sign of any weakness on Model 3 sales, they will have to quickly pivot to a CUV/SUV to meet current market demands. The original concept of the Model 3/Model E/bluestar sedan dates back to 2006.

    2. Doggydogworld says:

      You raise a very good point, but IMHO you oversell it a little. Actual Bolt design did not start in 2012, that’s when Norris went to Korea to set up the design team. He clearly says the design took 3 1/2 years from start until launch, so they started around June 2013. By then the Model S was well established.

      The goal was to beat Model 3 to market and be the first 200+ mile BEV in that price range (note that Bolt is 36k+ before destination charge). They knocked that out of the park, winning Car of the Year, etc.

      They also wanted an advanced technology platform for autonomous taxi. That drove the shape by requiring upright seating, easy entry and egress, etc. They had to design with some cushion on the 200 miles so it wouldn’t come in at 190 or something. I think they aimed for 215-220 and surprised themselves with 238. In hindsight, they probably wish they’d have made it a little larger.

      1. Kirk says:

        Unfortunately, Tesla was not in a race to manufacture the first sub $40,000 greater than 200 mile range electric car. Tesla was in a race to produce the best $40,000 car with any drivetrain.

  35. Geo says:

    Good observations.

    I really, really wanted to like the Bolt. I need a hatch and I thought it would be a good replacement for my RAV4 EV. The moment I sat in the Bolt, however, I realized that wasn’t going to be the case. I’m a reasonably big guy, and my shoulder touched the door. Leg and headroom were good, but the narrowness was way too confining. It felt like I was flying economy.

    My wife has a C-Max, and it is a great size. If GM had just scaled the Bolt up by a few inches, I would be driving one today.

  36. Don Zenga says:

    We should note that Bolt is sold only in the few states and this has cut the sales drastically. Starting from August, it will extend to all 50 states and this should give a big boost to its sales.

    Prius Prime is also sold only in limited volume which is much lesser than 2,000 / month despite its very low price point.

    Whether the Bolt’s demand is impacted by Model 3 is not known. Let’s wait until September 1st.

    1. Assaf says:

      It’s not “a few states” but about 20, which happen to be where nearly all EVs in the US have been sold.

      The remainder are mostly “flyover states” with smaller/poorer population, and an even stronger attachment to big vehicles.

      Still, I’m rooting for the Bolt and hope to see its sales rise.

      I’ll be happy to see 5-figure monthly Bolt sales this very year, couldn’t care less it if will make this post seem idiotic in retrospect.

  37. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

    The article asserts:

    “Twice in a row, GM has developed a flagship mass-market EV without targeting any major segment or constituency of the US auto market.”

    Wut? From GM’s viewpoint, those PEVs (Plug-in EVs) most definitely are not “flagship” models. In fact, your article goes into some depth to detail exactly how those models have been deliberately designed and marketed to sell only in restricted market segments, where they will provide very little competition with GM’s actual flagship models.

    “Chevy Volt target? …looking bigger on the outside than its cramped interior…”

    Seriously? The first time I saw a Volt in person I was shocked at how tiny it is. On the outside. It’s hardly surprising it’s cramped on the inside!

    “…the original design instructions doomed it to second-tier volumes.”

    That’s right, there really isn’t much mystery here to why GM’s PEV sales remain in the doldrums, is there? The recalcitrance of many or most GM dealers to promote or sell the car certainly does exacerbate the situation, but the low demand was IMHO quite deliberate on the part of GM from the start.

    “Yes, the Bolt is very efficient with its space. This what matters is how the car is perceived by potential consumers. For Europe where they value space-efficient cars, the Bolt nicely targets a major segment. Per the US size definitions, the Bolt is a subcompact.”

    And this is one of several factors which have caused me to assert that GM has made choices to deliberately limit the market for the Bolt EV. If they would ship more of them to Europe, then they would sell better. (Not producing any right-hand-drive units is another way in which GM has deliberately chosen to limit the market for the car.)

    Now, it may be that GM has a good reason to limit the Bolt EV mainly to domestic sales. Perhaps they’ve priced it so aggressively low that, from GM’s viewpoint, it’s only profitable to sell the car in CARB States, as Elon Musk claims. If so, then they’re making essentially zero profit by shipping them to Europe and S. Korea and other places with noticeably high demand for the car.

    But whatever the reasons, good or bad, there seems little doubt that GM has very little desire to sell the Bolt EV except where it will earn them ZEV (Zero-Emission Vehicle) credits.

    “…the Gen 2 Volt, as well, is still too small…”

    Yes, it was very disappointing that GM only increased the seating for the Volt 2.0 from 4 to 4.5 seats. 🙁 Again, an indication they don’t want it to compete with any of their more profitable gasmobiles.

    “Why do GM keep repeating the same rookie error?”

    It’s not an “error”, it’s a business strategy.

    “My best guess is that the people in charge of targeting still don’t really believe they can sell EVs to ‘ordinary people’. The mis-targeting…”

    Okay, this is clearly labeled as an op-ed, and of course you’re entitled to your opinion. But I think you’re ignoring the elephant in the room: That GM (and other legacy auto makers) make a fatter profit margin off selling gasmobiles than they do off selling PEVs, and that’s why they have deliberately — not because of a “rookie error”, nor “mis-targeting” — restricted the markets for the Volt and the Bolt EV to segments where the models cannot possibly perform well.

    “…Nissan has embraced the Leaf as a flagship brand.”

    Again, I disagree. Nissan decided to strongly support sales in the Leaf’s early years, by building out new auto assembly plants and new battery factories in Tennessee and the UK, so they could fully satisfy international demand for the car. But after that, in later years, they let the model languish and age, refusing to upgrade it with an active thermal management system despite very well publicizes problems with overheated battery packs aging prematurely, and also by refusing to increase the car’s range, not even offering a larger battery pack as an option until forced to do, years later, by the competition offering BEVs with greater range.

    That’s not what you do with a flagship model. That’s what you do with an aging model you want to keep milking money from as long as possible without spending any more development money.

    * * * * *

    We computer programmers like to excuse flaws in a program by mendaciously asserting “It’s not a bug, it’s a feature!” 😉

    But in such cases, it really is a bug. Contrariwise, the design and marketing choices which GM has used to (in my opinion) deliberately limit the market for the Volt and the Bolt EV, choices which look like a bug or a flaw to us EV advocates, really are a positive feature to GM’s top executives and bean-counters.

    1. unlucky says:

      On the Nissan front I feel that when Nissan killed their 2 or 3 rumored attempts at an Infiniti EV around 2014 it was clear they were not going to keep moving forward with EVs they way they had. They instead decided to milk what they had until the market grows more.

      Now there is so much talk of BEVs that perhaps we will see the market grow more. And I’d like to think Nissan will being to push forward again.

      But the LEAF 2.0 does not fill me with hope. It looks like a reskin, not a new design. It will offer the 40kWh Zoe pack at least, so that’ll be good for those who want to pay for that. But we’ll know they are serious about pushing EVs forward again when they make a non-LEAF model. And I don’t mean that NV200 van.

    2. Nix says:

      I just want to make a quick comment on your point about “flagship”. I agree that isn’t the best word choice. GM flagships are Silverado, Corvette, Escalade, etc.

      But Lutz was very clear about the Volt being designed to leap-frog the Prius and crush Toyota in numbers. It was not supposed to be a small volume niche car, it was supposed to be the Prius killer of it’s day. Translated to modern terms a decade later, it was supposed to be the Tesla-killer of its day — and that was how Lutz sold it to the board. That GM couldn’t just compete with the Prius in their own game, but that GM had to blow past the Prius to steal their market share in that market segment.

      With that said, they also had a target price in the high 20’s. So things didn’t actually work out the way they planned.

      1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

        Nix said:

        “But Lutz was very clear about the Volt being designed to leap-frog the Prius and crush Toyota in numbers.”

        Nix, thanks for your very welcome response.

        You certainly have an excellent point when you say the Volt 1.0 was designed at a time when sales of GM’s larger cars were tanking, and Americans were demanding smaller, more efficient cars. I think that’s entirely true.

        So to that extent, I agree I was wrong about GM intentionally limiting the market for the Volt 1.0.

        But since then… the only other car GM put a Voltec powertrain into was the Cadillac ELR, and I think most reasonable people will agree that was a very poorly designed and poorly marketed car. Whether the failure was deliberate or not, I dunno. It doesn’t seem reasonable to think GM would deliberately waste money that way, but on the other hand, it’s hard to see why they would have designed it with an almost unusable back seat, or why they initially overpriced it by such an excessive amount. Perhaps it was just an extreme case of “design by committee”, rather than a deliberate choice to sabotage the model.

        The camel is a horse designed by a committee. — American proverb

        1. Peter G. says:

          Lots of cars have smaller back seats than the ELR. See Audi, Lexus or Mazda

      2. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

        Nix said:

        “With that said, they also had a target price in the high 20’s.”

        GM actually and seriously planned to sell the Volt 1.0 for under $30k? I thought the initial lowball price estimates were just the typical corporate groupthink in action, with marketing painting an unrealistically rosy picture of a product in development.

        You really think, Nix, that GM originally thought they could deliver it for such a low price… and then the reality was 33% higher at an MSRP of (if my Google-fu is good) $39,995?

        If they had managed to pull that off, I think we would be having a very, very different conversation today. And quite possibly Tesla would have very serious competition in the PEV market.

        1. WadeTyhon says:

          I could be incorrect about the details, I am on my phone at the moment.

          But originally, the Volt was expected to have 10-15 mile range similar to the PIP. This is how the car would have been cheaper despite incredibly high battery prices at the time. But further study about how people drove day to day led them to the longer range.

          1. WadeTyhon says:

            Nevermind, looks like it was their stated goal of 25-40 miles that I was thinking of.

            Lutz wanted to get it to 30,000. And he wanted 40 miles. But it wasn’t feasible at the time to get both. He did say in an interview that they are more likely to get the Volt to 30,000 on the second generation. (They’re under 30k after tax credits now.)

        2. Nix says:

          Yea, in the early days of development, they really did believe they could do it that cheap. And the $7500 dollar fed rebate was supposed to cover nearly the entire cost of the battery. Their assumptions were just wildly off in 2006. Here is a good accounting, based directly on interviews with Lutz himself by Automotive News:

          http://adage.com/article/news/gm-s-bob-lutz-chevy-volt-wound-40k-price-tag/138244/

          Sorry, I should have posted this link with my previous post. It would have saved everyone some google-foo. Unfortunately it is sometimes hard to find sources for junk I have stuffed into the corners of my brain.

  38. Dave says:

    Agree 100%. I test drove the Bolt, loved it.

    But the trunk was just not big enough to work for me. If they made it a foot longer and put that in the cargo space, 100% would have bought it. Even over the model 3 (much prefer the hatchback layout of the bolt).

  39. Marty says:

    Great article, but I would rank their dealer network as a bigger problem. I bought a used 2013 Volt for less than $14k. I love it, but I had to sell myself on it. I drove 2 hours to the dealership to look at it, and the guy still tried to steer me towards an ICE. Then when he finally realized that I actually gave a damn about climate change, he made a paltry attempt to show his green cred by bragging about how he “recycles everything” and then threw his plastic water bottle in the trash. They hadn’t even charged it up. An auto mechanic recently remarked that, “you don’t get a lot for the price” with a volt. I reminded him that I don’t normally buy gas, haven’t needed to have it serviced in the year I’ve had it, and can comfortably fit my family of four in it with two car seats, one of which is rear facing, on long trips (the hatchback makes it quite spacious.) My only complaint with it is the collision detection sensors, which are more distracting than helpful, and the visibility, which is a problem in every American made car I’ve ever driven. If they want to sell Volts or Bolts, they should try actually selling them – people would buy them if they had ANY idea what they are. Most people who see mine aren’t even aware that the models exist.

    1. Assaf says:

      Haha, that recycling dealer story of yours is worth its own blog post 🙂

      Seriously, the editors love driver stories. Just send them to insideevs@gmail.com

  40. Warrn says:

    We bought our Bolt LT because I am certain we will not see as sensible an EV sold here ever again. The 41 kWh Zoe would have been my first choice, but will never be sold here. If the Bolt does survive, it will be larger, and more loaded with complex junk than it already is.

    1. Assaf says:

      Congrats!

      Agree about “complex junk”. But for us, the combination between less trunk space than our old Leaf, and a killer new Leaf lease offer vs. what a Bolt would cost, sealed the deal.

  41. Another Euro point of view says:

    Best comment I read about why Bolt is a failure is:

    “a $10K car with a $25K battery in it”

    Obviously exaggerated but still a good way to pin point the problem with the Bolt. Maybe GM wanted to play a dirty trick on Tesla by forcing them to fit in a bigger battery than planed in Model 3 ? Then we now have this commercial failure. In Norway the eGolf with same price and a much much smaller battery is selling much better than the Bolt. Battery size is not all, if range is really an issue then most people still just buy an ICE car or an hybrid.

  42. Martin Winlow says:

    I’ve said it a million times – the main driver for EV adoption is the price of oil. Sad but true and with the cost of fuel in the US as low as it is at the moment I see it as no surpise that Bolt sales are languishing.

    On top of that, how much advertising is GM doing on the telly for the Bolt? I’m guessing precisely zero.

  43. Null says:

    OR…
    The Bolt is masterful targeting.

    Enough negative qualities for all but a very few people.

    Enough positive qualities to generate enough sales to limit the price of CARB credits. They had been transfering millions to Tesla in CARB credits. The Bolt provides enough that their failure to comply with emissions (even with faith based testing) so they stop feeding thier most potent enemy.

    They’re selling exactly as many Bolts as they wish.

    OBTW, Days inventory comparisions are only truly comparable if inventory distribution is the same. It most definitely is not. But they can say we’re selling all we can just look at the days inventory number. Meanwhile most Bolts are stuffing the same locations, with very few dealers having massive inventory while whole regions might have an example on one dealers lot, charge depleted, parked with the overstock.

  44. Liam says:

    I recently had to replace my CMax Energi PHEV. I wanted preferably to go full electric but the total cost of ownership was a factor. I considered the Volt, Bolt, CMax Energi, Fusion Energi and a Certified off lease 2015 BMW i3.

    The BMW drive the best but the back seat area was a clostrophobic nightmare that couldn’t fit a child seat for my granddaughter. At 2.99 interest TCO was over 40g.

    The Volt was also small on the inside and despite a nice feel had the highest available price and highest TCO.

    The Bolt was surprisingly roomy though did seem narrower than expected. I couldn’t drive it as the dealership, despite several in stock, had none charged for test drive. The finish was econobox but the price not. Again price and TCO high though not as bad as Volt.

    The Fusion and CMax share design cues and drive train. At a premium for the sedan I stopped that idea quickly.

    The CMax with available incentives came in under 30 fully equipped. It had much better fit and finish than the GM products. With 0% interest it came in best for TCO.

    I do believe the BMW was the best product but it and the Volt were both above my price point. The Bolt was at the higher end of my range and if it had better financing and seemed more than an econobox with the most limited charging options, I might have gone for it.

    I’m happy with my new CMax.

  45. Kerbe says:

    Grammar-check: “The good news is…”, not “The good news are…” as “news” is singular, not plural.

  46. menorman says:

    So it’s worth pointing out that the subcompact sales numbers are highly market-specific. Here in CA, the Bolt garnered about 10% of that market segment in the first several months of the year, and that was before the deep discounts became really common.

  47. CCIE says:

    At this point it seem like GM just doesn’t intend to sell high volume EVs. Perhaps they’re being extremely conservative with their first few EVs and don’t want to sell hundreds of thousands of them. Or maybe they see that gas prices are low and sales of their bread-and-butter SUVs are trending up.

    No mater the reason, they knew/know roughly what sales of Bolts will be. They alter incentives to keep those sales where they want them.

    The author makes it sound like GM is a bunch of bumbling idiots. They are perfectly aware of the situation and would make changes if they didn’t like it.

    Bolt & Volt sales levels are exactly where GM wants them.

    Hopefully the Tesla M3 is a huge success and forces all of the major players to get real with EVs.

  48. Someone out there says:

    While I would have wanted the Bolt EV to sell better it’s still not that bad actually. It’s selling far better than the Spark EV ever did, it has already sold more than twice as many this year than the top year for the Spark.

    My guess is that GM is holding back a little in case some major issue with the car turns up. At the same time they are reportedly looking to optimize the production. Hopefully with MY2018 or at least MY2019 some of the issues people have reported will be addressed.

  49. Leo says:

    > Make the Bolt one foot longer keeping everything else the same, and it becomes a legit compact-crossover, very close in size to the Ford Escape.

    Bingo. The bolt is a great platform by all accounts, but it doesn’t work for a family, while the Leaf does.

    In the Leaf we can fit ourselves and the two kids, and a big stroller + stuff in the back. It’s a bit smaller than the ICE car we came from (Elantra Touring) but it works.
    In the Bolt, we can’t fit a stroller in the back, let alone anything else so it’s completely disqualified from consideration. Yes the tech is better in every way than the Leaf but if we don’t fit it will never work.
    They need to release a bigger body on the Bolt pronto. Then it will take off.

  50. Bacardi says:

    Agree with everything…The biggest problem that I didn’t see mentioned is that GM put range above all else…Remember they tried to build up hype for their Tesla-like “range reveal”…The question is why and I think I know the answer…Fact is GM gathered current Gen1 owners input for the Gen2, of their top five things the number one item was “more range!”…Over half of EV/PHEVs are leased, the Volt is lucrative for having some of the lowest lease deals including it’s best sales month they offer $0 down and $199/mo for 24 months…They got a smoking deal, of course they want “more range!”…While current owner input is valued, what’s more valuable are the reasons why potential customers test drove it but ended up buying another green car instead…I shouldn’t be too difficult for GM to advertise an $50 survey offer to say 500 recent Leaf owners and another 500 to Prius owners to determine why didn’t purchase a GM PHEV/EV product and ask what would it have taken? And you’ll hear a lot of what’s said here, people would prefer to give up some range for other benefits…But instead the got the “more range!”

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