Chevrolet Upbeat About Prospects For Its Bolt EV


When the Los Angeles Times spoke with Shad Balch, Chevrolet’s new products manager, recently, it asked him a lot of questions about the Chevy Bolt due out later this year. The first thing it wanted to know was whether the Bolt would steal sales from the Volt, Chevy’s plug-in hybrid car.

Chevy Bolt

Not really, Balch answered. “These are different cars for different consumers. The Bolt EV will be the vehicle for someone who wants a daily driver that uses no fuel and produces no emissions. The Volt is for someone who still needs a car with a gasoline engine that can make that long drive.”

Next, the Times wanted to know about the recent study from that claims current EV and plug-in owners are trading in their cars for crossovers and SUVs. Balch says Chevrolet isn’t worried. “We’re at about the 100,000 mark for Volts sold and we are the No. 1 bestselling plug-in hybrid in the U.S. We’re at the top of the customer satisfaction studies. Anecdotally, I know we have a lot of Volt customers waiting for their leases to expire so they can replace them with a new Volt.”

In an era of unusually low gas prices, how do you get people excited about saving money on gasoline? “That’s the challenge,” Balch said. “We have to get people to drive the car. Once they do, they realize it’s not just about the price of gas. It’s about the performance — the torque at zero RPM, the silence, the lack of vibration. These are things we try to engineer into gasoline-powered cars, but they’re all inherent in electric vehicles.”

Balch’s words underline what many people are beginning to realize about EVs in general. People say they care about fuel economy but they really don’t. If they did, they would not be beating down the doors at car dealers across the land begging to buy the biggest, heaviest, thirstiest crossovers, SUVs, and pickup trucks they can find.

It is well known that people buy on emotion and justify their decision afterwards with facts. In other words, sell the sizzle, not the steak. So don’t focus on how green the car is or how it protects the environment. Focus on how the car makes the people inside feel about driving an electric car. That’s the key to unlocking more sales.

Balch went on to say that all the positive buzz about the upcoming Tesla Model 3 is good for electric car sales in general. Elon Musk acknowledgea his goal is not to sell every electric car made. It is to spur other companies to build high quality electric cars so customers have a choice of many models. The market has room for Mustangs and Camaros, F 150’s and Silverados, and Camrys and Civics.

Speaking of the favorable press Tesla is getting, Balch tells the Times, “It helps. It helps the whole industry. Every story about the Model 3 includes a mention of the Bolt EV and our target date is ahead of theirs. We’re on track. Pre-production models have rolled off the line about six weeks ago. We are on schedule to begin production at the end of this year, with deliveries to start immediately afterward.”

Lastly, he spoke about the price of the Chevy Bolt compared to the Model 3. Many people think top versions of the Model 3 could sell for as much as $60,000, especially since Elon Musk admitted last week that the car would definitely have a Ludicrous Mode option. That feature costs an extra $10,000 on the Model S and Model X. Chevrolet’s goal are more modest, Balch says.

“There will be some options, but the base car will have most of our content and connectivity features, including active safety features. That will all be standard from the lower trim level.”

The Chevy Bolt and the Tesla Model 3. Different strokes for different folks. And it’s all good.

About the Author

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.

  • Julien

    I see the Bolt selling well to customers only if dealers are willing to sell them.
    Although I do think that the Bolt is more of the ultimate taxi, car-sharing, ride-sharing vehicle. It’s cheap enough, has a very nice autonomy, cargo space is good, can easily take 3 passengers in the rear seats and based on what I remember GM saying they plan on integrating ride-sharing apps (Lyft only ?) directly on the dashboard.

    • Steve Hanley

      Dealer support will be critical. GM says it is working hard to get dealers on board with selling electric cars, but it is a struggle. Many dealers just couldn’t be bothered, whether it is for GM brands or other legacy manufacturers.

      That has to change, and soon.

      • Chris Overholt

        Bizarre to hear that GM needs to persuade them. Isnt there a two way contract? The dealers sound like subordinate employees.

        On another note, Maybe GM needs to incentivize them to sell the electric cars or penalize them for not selling. Or maybe our elected officials should incentivize electric cars being sold (more than they have). Though this could easily backfire.

      • Michael G

        As you said in the article, sell the sizzle not the steak and the 1st gen Volt didn’t have a lot of sizzle taken purely as a car. People who bought it did so for environmental reasons or they just hate oil cos. If it were an ICE I doubt any would have sold at all. The Bolt looks bigger and nicer. It might sell as well as a Honda Fit or Nissan Versa but that isn’t a whole lot compared to Camrys or Civics.

        A lot of car sales people are part-timers or short timers paying their way through school or just trying to earn some cash while looking for a “real” job. Getting them familiar with something as complex as a Volt is asking a lot.

        I looked at and sat in the new Volt and while it is tremendously improved it is *small*. It felt more cramped than a Civic. I still want to buy a used one in a few years since the price drops so fast on those but that’s just me being environmentally conscious. People like me don’t need a salesman.

        The trend is towards bigger cars for most people. They come into the dealer already knowing pretty much what they want, Asking the dealers to train their staff to sell a small car with little profit to people who come in looking for a truck or SUV is going to be a struggle.

  • Professor Driftwood

    As far as I am concerned, as a Brit, I will wholeheartedly welcome the Bolt or Ampera E or whatever it will be called over here. Two hundred miles will suit me down to the ground and it means that I will never have to call to a petrol station again. If General Motors can deliver this vehicle along with the requisite quality and reliability, I will sell my soul to get hold of one.

    • Rick Danger

      From everything I’ve read, and to prove once again that GM can eff up a free lunch, GM is not planning on making a RHD model for the UK or anywhere else. Little startup Tesla can do it, but not big, bad GM. Google GM Bolt RHD and see what you find.

      • Professor Driftwood

        I have read that but when you think of the size of the UK car market and the amount of Vauxhall sales here, I tend to believe that General Motors/Opel will see the common sense in producing a right-hand drive model. Tesla is indeed showing the way to the multinational corporations in their refreshing attitude in adapting to change and innovation. Watch this space.

        • Steve Hanley

          Agree completely regarding Tesla’s influence on the market. GM is ASSUMING there is not enough demand in the UK and the colonies to make a business case for a RHD version. That’s a self defeating attitude. I think we all know the popular wisdom about the word “assume.”

          As Henry Ford said long ago, “Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you’re right.”

  • Tom Wilcox

    I’ve been looking at the Volt but now that I’ve heard the Bolt is coming out in October, I’m all in on that!

    • Steve Hanley

      As a Chevy rep said this week, the two cars appeal to different markets. If the Bolt floats your boat, then that’s the car for you!

  • Herkermer

    Musk “admitted” that the Model 3 will have a Ludicrous mode option? That’s really trying hard to spin a positive as a negative:

    “Mr. Musk, is it not true that the Model 3 will offer supercar-level performance for those who would like it?”

    “Uh…um…dang, you got me! I admit it! It will have a Ludicrous mode option!”