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.
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 Edmunds.com 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.