First Pre-Production Chevy Bolt Rolls Off The Assembly Line


Michelle Malcho, spokeswoman for GM’s Chevy cars unit, tells Fortune that the first pre-production Chevy Bolt has rolled off the assembly line at the company’s factory in Orion, Michigan. “For us, this shows movement,” Malcho says. “We’re not just talking about it, we’re doing it.” That may be a not so subtle dig at Tesla, which has been chronically late getting cars to market on time in the past.

Chevy Bolt pre-production car

What is pre-production? It’s a stage that allows engineers and factory workers to make sure parts fit, the manufacturing process works, and the dimensions on the car are right. For instance, workers might make sure the tool that installs the windshield works correctly, Malcho explains. Typically, it takes 6 to 12 months for a car to go from the pre-production phase to full production. Chevrolet plans to start full production of the Bolt before the end of this year.

In the meantime, the pre-production cars, which cannot be sold to the public, will be used for real world testing. Feedback from testers can be incorporated into running changes that will apply to the actual production cars when they get built. For instance, Chevy has worked hard to make driving the Bolt feel as much like driving a conventional car as possible.

The Bolt is intended to appeal to people who are driving Civics and Corollas today. They are not early adopters the way Chevy Volt owners are. Chevy thinks they don’t want any surprises when they slip behind the wheel of a Bolt for that first, all important test drive.

That means the drivetrain has been programmed to make it “creep” at a stop light just the way a gas powered car with an automatic transmission would do. Regenerative braking has also been set on the light side so when a driver takes his or her foot of the gas pedal, the car doesn’t suddenly slow more than expected. The car does have more aggressive regenerative braking available, but only if the driver elects drive the car using the Low setting.  Chevrolet could alter those settings if real world testing shows changes are needed.

Chevrolet would love to have the first production Bolts in showrooms before Christmas and is working overtime to make that happen. The Orion, Michigan assembly plant also builds the Buick Verona compact SUV and the Chevy Sonic. Hmmmm…. is there any chance some of the peices of the Bolt might find their was into those cars someday?

Photo credit: Chevrolet



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I have been a car nut since the days when Rob Walker and Henry N. Manney, III graced the pages of Road & Track. Today, I use my trusty Miata for TSD rallies and occasional track days at Lime Rock and Watkins Glen. If it moves on wheels, I’m interested in it. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.

  • AaronD12

    I wonder how long it will take before high-regen is the default mode instead of being the “other” mode.

    • Steve Hanley

      If it were up to me, that’s the way I would do it. “One pedal driving” is all the rage among people who drive electric cars today. They really enjoy never having to use the brake pedal. But GM is really nervous about scaring off mainstream buyers who want an electric car to feel just like the conventional car they are used to driving.

      For myself, I find the “Low” designation inappropriate. For us older drivers who grew up driving Mom’s Impala with the famous Powerglide transmission, low meant slow. I don’t think that’s the message Chevrolet wants to convey.

      • James Rowland

        (Mostly) one pedal driving has been all the rage among ICE drivers who trained to use the gearbox right for quite a few decades. 🙂

        It’s a whole lot better in an EV, though.

  • roseland67

    I drove a Model S yesterday, the regen was relatively aggressive, it took some getting used to, would actually prefer less

    • Steve Hanley

      Well, see? There you go. Soon, manufacturers will offer us several regen options. The new Volt has a lever to the left fo the steering wheel that allows the driver to choose how much regen to use. The new Hyundai Ioniq electric will have paddles like those used for DSG automatic transmissions mounted behind the wheel to control regen.

      I know the first time I drove my 2007 Prius, I found the regen clunky and annoying. It always reminded me of riding on a NYC subway car. I’m sure the technology has improved in the past 9 years!

    • James Rowland

      Did you try the “low” regen setting? It’s rather mild, in my estimation.

      When you get used to regen you won’t want to turn it down, though. 🙂

      • Steve Hanley

        That’s the thing, James. People won’t like it at first because it it different. Once they get used to it, they will wonder how they ever lived without it!

        • kevin mccune

          I want brake saving regen ,I dont like replacing brake pads ,in the ridges were i live ,agressive regen is perfect ,just let me turn it down in the winter.

  • zn

    I wonder if Tesla et al use high regen when they do their official range calculations. Probably not? I’ve always thought that aside from improving battery tech to improve range, improving regen could offer another few percentage points of range.