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.
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?