2017 Chevy Bolt Deliveries are a Clear Challenge to Tesla Model 3


Lyndon Johnson once said, “Politics is war.” Well, Lyndon, so is business. General Motors delivered the first Chevy Bolt on time December 13 — an obvious challenge to Elon Musk to do the same with his forthcoming Model 3. Elon has promised that car will start production before the end of 2017, but Tesla has a poor record of delivering new models on time. The Model S and the Model X were both two years late coming to market.

Chevy Bolt

In an obvious bit of stage management, the first three Bolts were delivered to customers in Fremont, California, which just so happens to be home to the Tesla factory. And who were the three lucky new owners? Did they all turn in a gas guzzling Super Duper Duty pickup truck for Chevy’s electric car? Not quite. One is a retiree who traded in a Spark EV. Another is a software developer who gave up his BMW i3. The third is a real estate broker who stepped away from a Toyota Prius.

Deliveries will continue in California and Oregon later this month before expanding to New York, Massachusetts, and Virginia by early next year. Come the middle of the year, the Bolt should be available nationwide. The car starts at $37,495 before incentives and has an EPA rated range of 238 miles on a full battery charge. Predictions are that Chevrolet will produce 20,000 to 30,000 cars a year. Kelley Blue Book analyst Karl Brauer thinks the company could build 80,000 Bolts a year if the demand is there.

Elon Musk is planning to sell 400,000 Model 3 electric sedans a year. Why are projections for the Chevy Bolt so low? Don’t tell Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors, but many people think the competition between the Chevy Bolt and the Tesla Model 3 will be no contest. They think the Tesla will be a near premium level car similar to the BMW 3 Series while the Bolt is more equivalent to a gussied up Chevy Spark, which is built at the same factory.

We won’t know for another year or two — or three — but a side by side comparison of the Tesla Model 3 and the General Motors product should be interesting once both cars are available to the public. One thing that is odd is that General Motors is rolling out the Bolt in a so-called “soft launch.” It’s all very much under the radar with little to no press fanfare. Why is it that The General refuses to aggressively promote its green car products? Is it afraid people might actually buy them and explode the myth that no one wants to buy electric cars?

Source: Autoblog

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.
  • Rick

    So, people buying the Bolt are people who already drive green cars. Hmm, not very reassuring you know? Oh well, maybe some lucky fellow who really wants an EV can buy the Spark now. I Just don’t see anyone interested, I think we will need to be patient. Seriously, I talk to friends, people I know… no one really gives a damn

    • Rafael Formisano

      Until you drive one, then you become a EV fan, like happened to my wife, daughter in law and two of my friends

      • Rick

        So that’s 5 less people. Still a long way to go. I’m sure we’ll get there though

        • Marcelo Pacheco

          When Tesla began delivering Model S in large numbers, they found out for every Model S delivery many more orders came from the same neighbourhood. All it took a Tesla owner giving a test drive to a neighbour and showing why the car is great, most drives = Tesla orders. Tesla still doesn’t need to do paid ads for their cars. Tesla drivers are the best salespeople.
          Now think about the Model 3, where the universe of buyers with enough money to get one in countries Tesla is already selling is several hundreds of millions of people. Tens of millions in the USA alone.
          I predict Tesla might never need to place paid ads, at least until 2030.
          It wont take long until Tesla has a east coast US factory, a China factory, an Europe factory and is selling over 2 million units / yr.

    • Gnällgubben

      Well their old cars didn’t just go up in smoke. Now other people are driving them and wishing they’d bought Bolts as well.

    • What’s your point here? Don’t people who buy pickups generally buy new pickups? I think it’s worth noting that people who already drive green cars … ARE BUYING GREEN CARS AGAIN! It’s not a fad, in other words. They didn’t get over it. People get their *first* green car, then they stick with it. Seems like positive news to me. 🙂

  • MrKevinSD

    Title should read: Crappy Car Made Mainly with Foreign Components Hopes to Catch Up To Teslas Massive Model of Disruption

    Bolt is an utter joke. GM stepped out of the EV race over a decade ago. Now they come up with this?

    They will never be able to beat Tesla due to the fact that GM doesn’t have access to a giga factory.

    I would t be surprised if Tesla eventually starts selling batteries to the likes of GM.

    Anyways, the only comparable thing between a bolt is a sub 45k EV with a range greater than 200 miles.

    Bolt would be a 20k hatchback otherwise. Great there is a real ev from GM. But it’s no where near the model 3. To think so is to have your head up your butt. Then again, coming from the company that killed the electric car, that’s exactly where I’d expect them to have their heads.

    • roseland67

      I think GM could eventually compete with Tesla, but not until they replace the old school dinosaur gear heads running their Electric Car “Think Tank”, with forward thinking engineers that have 0 allegiance to ICE development.
      A battery only drive train, (for local transport), coupled with an on board ICE duty specific single speed generator used exclusively to charge batteries
      Is the way forward for GM.
      All CAFE, CARB and EPA emissions are exceeded and no range anxiety for long trips.

      • MrKevinSD

        They still are missing a critical component. A giga factory.

        • bioburner

          GM doesn’t need a giga factory. They use large format cells not the 7500+ tiny cells you find crammed into the Tesla. The Bolt battery has 288 cells. way easier and faster to make 288 large cells than the tiny cells that Tesla uses.

        • Hayden

          And a charging network

    • Rick

      You should go out more

      • MrKevinSD

        You should speak up when you have something interesting to say.

    • kvleeuwen

      Of course it is not near the Model 3.
      …we don’t know where the Model 3 is, and the Bolt is here.

      Also, in Norway the Ampera-e (same car, other badge) sells for 289.000 Nok (€32500) which I do not expect to be matched by Tesla.

      Can you explain a foreigner why an all-american car would be a plus?
      I happily drive a car from a French brand, designed by a Dutchman, Korean batteries, German drivetrain, British factory.

      • MrKevinSD

        Simple. All parts made in one spot means relying less on using fossil fuel to ship everything back and forth. Thus lowering green green house gas from some of the biggest polluters: cargo ships.

        • trackdaze

          Nevermind that battery production will switch stateside sometime next year.

        • kvleeuwen

          Ok. So for EU/Asia residents, a Tesla car would be a bad choice?

          • MrKevinSD

            I said reduce shipping. Not eliminate it. So it is still a better choice buying a car that is mainly made and assembled in one spot, rather than many. To put it another wAy, what’s the shortest difference between two points. That will answer your question.

          • Right- we’ll ignore the fact that, in many cases, the raw materials to make these cars come from overseas for the purposes of this bizarrely xenophobic argument for a locally-grown EV.

          • 😀

      • Rick Danger

        The Ampera-e is in Norway, huh? I don’t think so.

        • Steve Hanley

          According to my contact in Norway, it definitely is being offered there soon. More on that soon.

    • So, wait- you think all of Tesla’s parts are made in the USA, **and** you think GM is incapable of building a “giga factory”, which will prevent them from being competitive. You also seem to think Tesla makes its own batteries (they don’t- they’re made by Panasonic). It also seems like your keyboard is missing an apostrophe key. Did I get all that right?

      • MrKevinSD

        So you’ve moved from writing articles to writing comments. Good I’ve never been a fan of white you write. When I say *all* parts. I’m referring to make as many parts in the factory as possible. (Which is exactly what Tesla is doing) only someone with very poor reading comprehension would equate that to every single part.

        Sure GM could build a giga factory. But they sure don’t have one now.

        With regards to Tesla making batteries, I was referring to model 3 and not current production of model s as this article was about bolt v model 3.

        And only inept people attack on grammatical errors, because you lack substance in your rebuttle. Plus I’m writing from an iPhone and don’t give a crap if I make a mistake or two with the keyboard. I’m more concerned with accuracy of facts. You should try using them next time you write an article, because what you write still blows

        • Rick Danger

          Not only that, Jo was responsible for Brad and Angelina’s break-up too 🙂

          • kevin mccune

            Watt ?

    • Marcelo Pacheco

      Tesla fan here. But… Teslas also use foreign parts. GM could scale production up to million units, they won’t fail because of your arguments but rather cause their brand isn’t sexy, their dealers suck, and they will never promote EVs over much more profitable fossil cars. EVs take away dealers cash cow which is maintenance.
      Until GM explains how they hope to create large Bolt demand, I see them with sales just a few times higher than traditional compliance EVs, cause their dealers won’t be promoting them.

    • CVVH

      What do you mean by “beat Tesla”? On what comparison? GM: built an EV before Tesla, GM: first to market with a sub $40k 200+ mile EV. Also, GM sold 10million cars in 2015. How many did Tesla sell? Tesla hopes to someday sell 1 million cars a year. 10 is more than 1, BTW.
      Tesla is not competing with GM, they are trying to encourage more companies to build EV’s. In that they are succeeding.

      “Bolt is an utter joke”, maybe you should let these car experts know that:

      Motortrends 2017 car of the year.
      Greencarreports car of the year.
      car and driver rates it a 5/5, #1 ranked EV.

      With 200hp, and a 0-60 of under 6 seconds, and it’s reportedly sporty and fun handling, it actually competes more in the “hot hatch” category, and to cars with base prices more in the $25k range.

      After incentives, the base bolt, is about $30k, and with annual fuel savings, and almost zero maintenance, the total cost of ownership comparison looks pretty respectable.

  • philb

    The Bolt is a nice car but not competitive to the Model 3. People buying the Bolt are not going to overwhelming by it. Tesla makes people drop gas completely and go all electric.

    It sells them completely to the idea. There is a level of excitement that will never happen with the Bolt. The Bolt achieves an objective it makes electric cars not special.

  • Marc P

    It’s always funny to read Tesla fanboys well… fanboying…!

    2 year delays, manufacturing problems, reliability problems…
    and they want to build 500 000 Model 3’s per year…!?!?!?

    Yeah, I wish Tesla well, but I’ll believe it when I see it.

    Not everybody wants a sports car. Don’t get me wrong, there is a market for sports cars, but there is also a market for small cars, for minivans, for CUVs, etc.

    The model 3 just looks like a plane jane sedan. What’s exciting about that ??? The dashboard looks like it was an afterthought from the engineering team (“oh, yeah, we forgot about the dashboard and the unveiling’s tomorrow…. ah… let’s put in a gigantic iPad and we’ll figure out how it works, later…!).

    Although it’s a little on the small side for my taste, I like the practicality of the Bolt’s hatchback body style and it’s cute-ish, sort of like a Honda Fit. It’s not a car for everybody, but I’m pretty sure it will do well.

    Time will tell…

    • Marcelo Pacheco

      It sounds like fan boys cause you’re not driving one.
      I’m not driving one either, but even if you filter all opinions and focus on all facts about Tesla, you’ll see that your arguments make little sense.
      Tesla had delays and surely will still have them. That’s a result of being the technological leader, of not settling for a vanilla product, making a product people fall in love with.
      Remember that. Tesla owners 90+% absolutely love their car. 99% aren’t interested in getting anything else but a Tesla. Perhaps the availability of cheaper, long range EVs might reduce that 99% number to 95 or 90%, but still, Tesla is only going up.
      The explosive growth Tesla achieved without paid ads tells all about how desirable Teslas are, even considering their costs.

      • Marc P

        Well, for one, you’re confirming my point #2, that Tesla created excitement for their brand. It worked ! Yay for them. Sure, driving a Model S is exciting. It’s a sports car, after all. It’s powerful and it’s silent. What’s not to like ! The Model 3 will be exciting for sure. But, as I’ve said, not everybody wants a sports car.

        Also, with all the problems they had (and still have) with the model X, not sure they will be able to just start making 500 000 cars a year without any complications. It’s one thing to repair a few luxury cars you made a hefty profit on while they’re still under warranty. It’s quite another to recall 100 000+ sedans, you sold close to cost, cause you didn’t get it quite right the first time. Costs and customer dissatisfaction could shoot up quickly. Oddly enough, people with enough disposable income to buy cars over $100k, might be more lenient towards a new car maker than Joe the Plumber saving up his hard earned cash to buy a $40k Model 3.

        Don’t get me wrong, I wish them well…, I just have my doubts, that’s all.

        • Marcelo Pacheco

          Its a sports car that carries up to 5 adults + 2 children.
          Its a sports car that’s safer than a Volvo.
          Its a sports car that gets 90+ mpg equivalent.
          Its a sports car that has an advanced autopilot optional.
          Its a sports car that’s an environmentalist’s dreams.
          Its easy to ignore Tesla as a combination of usually totally conflicting factors.
          The top US$ 150k Tesla competes with US$ 300-US$ 600k super cars.
          The question isn’t if someone has the cash to burn, but instead how many people know they’re unlikely to ever afford a high end Ferrari/Lambo but that sees the Tesla as still pricy compromise they actually can get. While saving on the gas.
          Its easy to write it off as “excitement”. Its more of a perfect storm of reasons to make people buy one.
          There are a billion cars on the streets. 0.1% of that is a million units. All it takes is those 0.1-0.2% want to purchase a MS/MX to keep the high end Teslas selling forever.
          The Model 3 is a car within the price range of 5% of the world’s drivers, 20% of USA/Europe drivers.

          • fred smith the deplorable

            Perhaps some opinions there, and not all facts.

            90mpg? Not even close. The MPGe number is bogus. First, the S consumes about 38kWh per 100 miles. Second, the chargers are only about 85% efficient, so you have to buy 44.7kWh to get that 38kWh into the battery. Locally, electricity cost about $0.121/kWh, which would be about $5.40. Fuel costs $1.95 per gallon locally. That same $5.40 would buy 2.75 gallons of gas, which works out to 36.4 MPGrce (real cost equivalent). Not so impressive. To be fair, if you sign up for a time-of-use plan, and charge only during off-peak hours, you can bring the MPGrce up to about 60. That’s still a far cry from 90. Not to count the $1-3k you have to spend to get a home charger installed. That is the cost of about 200-600 100-mile fill-ups, so for your first 20-60k miles, you are (cost-wise) only getting half the above-calculated MPGrce. Hmmmm.

            As far as value goes, if the Tesla is so worth it’s price, why does it need governmental (ie from your neighbor) tax incentives to get people to buy it? How many Tesla owners are sending back their tax money, saying “My Tesla is such a great bargain that I don’t need no stinkin’ incentive.”?

            The third question is about Tesla’s desire to accelerate the adoption of EV’s. If this is true, and Musk seems to be sincere about that, why are so many Tesla fanbois on this thread bashing the Bolt, and bashing so many other EV’s, especially the despised “compliance cars”? If they believed the company line, they (and you) should be praising the Bolt, and all the other EV’s, rather that blasting them.

          • Marcelo Pacheco

            Who said Tesla NEEDS subsidies ? It gets subsidies cause the whole EV industry gets them. Actually Tesla will be the first maker to loose its US EV purchase incentive as it begins to draw down after Tesla achieves 200k deliveries in the USA. Two full years later the subsidy is gone.
            Why don’t you demand GM, Nissan, Ford and every other EV/Plugin hybrid gives up on their incentives (which was the sole reason they made EVs/plug in hybrids for the longest time). That’s the difference from compliance EVs (making a few EVs to generate ZEV credits to offset gas guzzlers) vs entering the car industry with only EV offerings.
            Then there’s the ZEV tax credits. Companies that make EV and fuel guzzlers get to use 100% of the credits, cause they just use them internally. Tesla must sell those after a huge markdown, cause there ain’t a lot of vendors that need to buy those. Supply/demand.
            Tesla doesn’t NEED any of those. It could live without them. Tesla spends billions/yr in R&D and tooling costs. Tesla’s revenue from ZEV credits is something in the order of 5% of its R&D costs. Tax credits would increase effective cost to customers by some US$ 7500, which is pocket change for a US$ 70-150k car.
            Those same US$ 7500 credits make a huge difference for a US$ 30k car !
            Oh, and please, go after Toyota and Hyundai because they’re selling fool cell cars that get higher subsidies than EVs.
            Yep, the problem isn’t that we’re fans or fan boys. The problem is you’re paid to destroy Tesla or just loves that ideology, cause you’re so entitled to destroy the earth !

      • fred smith the deplorable

        It sound like fanbois because it is fanbois.
        The mantra goes something like this:
        “EV’s will save the world! Buy a Tesla EV and save the world?”
        What about the Leaf, the Bolt, the RAV4e, the whatever?
        “They’re all junk! Only the Tesla can save the world!”

        Climate change is their religion, Elon Musk is their prophet, and Tesla is their denomination.

        If/when buying a Tesla is not a religious litmus test subsidized by the government, and is merely a rational economic decision, EV use will become widespread, rather than being just a cult product. Remember that.

        • Marcelo Pacheco

          You sound like an anti Tesla merchant of doubt…
          EV subsidies are per unit sold.
          A cheap EV gets a much better subsidy / cost than a Tesla. This shots down your Tesla is subsidized argument. You should be criticizing others.
          Other EVs were crappy vehicles. Short range, no fast charging on the go, safety just market average, crappy performance. Critics call those glorified golf carts.
          I’m actually happy to say the GM Bolt has 200+ miles range. So does the Leaf with the big battery. That’s great !
          I’m a Tesla fan, not a fan boy.
          MPGe wasn’t my invention. Its determined by the DOE.
          Smart EV owners charge with solar panels, which cost 1/5th of grid electricity. US$ 10k of solar panels is enough to offset 100% of your house electricity consumption and charge a Tesla that’s driven 100 miles/day.
          Tesla has this feature where you tell it only to charge at specific times (actually many EVs do), so arguing you’ll charge your tesla with peak or normal electricity just shows your deeply ignorant or a merchant of doubt. With 200+ miles range, you have to account at least 95% of EV charging to use lowest rate electricity, including special EV prices (which are available in California, by far the largest EV population in the USA). Actually its the crappy short range EVs that are forced to pay charging premium cause they don’t have enough range for a full day’s driving.
          If you’re one bit honest, you’ll individually admit to every point where I’m right instead of just attacking those you disagree. Otherwise you’re proving you have a hidden anti EV/anti Tesla agenda.
          Lets cut all subsidies to every company in the USA, starting with all Oil, Coal and Natural Gas subsidies, every R&D subsidy. Then you can take all valuable subsidies which help new technologies become viable.
          The EV subsidy as is starts to draw down when a maker achieves 200k EVs sold in the US total. That might happen in 2017, worst case in 2018, then it goes to zero in a few years. 100% gone by 2020.
          Oh the market is telling us that Tesla is a great brand. They manage to over sell EVs with ASP in the US$ 100k range Premium EVs vs those crappy EVs you want me to put in the same category as Tesla.

  • Jim Smith

    I do not understand all the negativity here. Sure, the Bolt is not perfect for everyone, but it moves the bar significantly towards the mass market. Wish we had more choices like a CUV, but it is what it is. <40k for a brand new 200+ mile EV is pretty cool in my book.

  • Marcelo Pacheco

    The Bolt isn’t a threat to Tesla. At all.

    GM has no supercharger strategy. They’re trying to convince dealerships to host the chargers, and those have like half or less of a 135kW Tesla Supercharger. Inconvenient location (since most charging is at home, superchargers are most valuable at major freeway intersections).
    Of course 238 miles range makes for a serious commuter car. And ultra low fuel cost cab. I think they will sell those a lot, but with little attrition from Tesla demand.
    Until GM can convince their dealerships to upsell EVs and downsell fossil cars, Bolt sales will not explode. Model S/X both are top 3 in US EV sales, even costing 2x as their EV/Plugin hybrid competitors.

    • bioburner

      The Bolt is not in the same car class as the Tesla. The only thing they have in common is the fact that they are both BEV. Case in point read the article…what did the 3 Bolt customers trade in? Not a Tesla, We as green car drivers have listened to this before. The Volt and the Leaf. Oh so much arguing over nothing.

  • Giving the price “before incentives” is meaningless, unless the buyer doesn’t have to pay the sales tax.

    In New Jersey, EV buyers get to keep the 7% sales tax they’d normally pay, but any federal tax credit doesn’t come into play until the following tax year, and even then, if you don’t owe, say, $7,500 in federal taxes, you can’t claim the full $7,500 credit (on a Tesla). It gets rolled over until the following year, etc., etc.

    So, you have to lay out the full price of the car.

    • Steve Hanley

      One quibble. It’s my understanding is that the tax credit does NOT roll over. If you don’t use it all in the first tax year, you lose the balance.

      I am not a tax expert. If someone has more (better) information on this, please feel free to share it with us.

      • Steve: I may have misunderstood my accountant, but I used about $5,700 of my $7,500 tax credit for the Tesla I bought in April 2015, and think I’ll be able to use the rest. I may be confusing the EV tax credit with tax credits for my solar system on my house that do roll over or capital gains losses, which also roll over.

        • Steve Hanley

          I am not an authority. If someone could clear this up for us, that would be great.

        • fred smith the deplorable

          The plug-in electric vehicle credit is a nonrefundable credit. This means that it cannot be used to reduce your tax liability below zero. Any portion of this credit that cannot be used in the current year is lost. That is different from the residential energy credit, which does roll over.

          • Steve Hanley

            Thanks. I thought that was the case but did not want to say so definitively in case I was wrong.

    • fred smith the deplorable

      Lots of people finance their cars, so your last comment is only true for cash buyers. As noted below, the EV tax credit does not roll over, and is not refundable. Once your tax liability hits $0 for the year of purchase, it’s done.

  • rookie test123

    My car gets 9mpg and uses premium and I still prefer not to get an EV.

  • M Oczakow

    “both 2 years late” is not entirely accurate, while X was 2 years late, Model-S was only about 6 months late.

  • WayneC

    Correction to article text: Chevy Bolt is not made at the same factory as the Chevy Spark. The Spark is made in Korea. The Chevy Sonic is made at the same factory as the Chevy Bolt, in Orion, Michigan.

    • Steve Hanley

      Thank you for catching that. I appreciate your input.