No surprise – Chevy Bolt is not selling well

Update 4:

Supposedly US Bolt sales for the 2nd quarter were 3,483, down 22.6% from the same quarter last year. I say “supposedly” because I am not certain if GM quotes sales to customers or sales to dealers, which could mean the “sale” is really inventory in dealers’ lots.

According to this article dealer inventory is about 75 days worth. The article states that is where GM wants inventory to be, but it’s hard to see why. You only have inventory if you have unsold cars, and June 2018’s inventory was the highest level since August 2017.

The article claims that the drop in US sales is offset by an increase in overseas sales (primarily Korea), and that GM is happy with Bolt sales so far. That sounds like PR spin. Why expend the cost to ship cars to Korea if there is demand in the US?

The article also states all Bolts are made at one plant, producing a maximum of 2,500/mo. In comparison Tesla announced their production issues are finally over, and are now producing 7,000 Model 3s/mo. There will be 2.8 Model 3s produced for every 1 Bolt.

Model 3s cost about the same as the Bolt, and have about the same range between recharge. But that’s where comparisons end. Otherwise, comparing a Bolt to a Model 3 is like … comparing a Chevy to a Tesla.

Update 3:

December Bolt sales were great at 3,227. But that was the end of the Bolt’s sales growth. While Jan/Feb 2018 sales are still higher than Jan/Feb 2017, they plummeted after Dec 2017. Sales dropped from 3,227 in Dec 2017 to 1,177 in Jan 2018. Sales for Feb 2018 were only 1,424.

Meanwhile Tesla’s Model 3 sales grew to 1,875 in Jan 2018 and 2,485 in Feb 2018. Tesla still has production problems, and halted production for 4 days during March 2018. But there is no doubt that the Model 3 is a nicer car than the Bolt, for about the same price and range, and will likely beat the Bolt’s sales when/if they fix their production issues.

Chevy announced an increase in Bolt production later this year. Maybe that will bring the price down.

BTW, the Toyota Prius family of hybrid cars continue sell poorly. Sales declined every year for the past 6 years. 2012 sales peaked at 236,655 units. 2017 sales were 108,661, a staggering 45.9% decline. Sales for Jan & Feb 2018 were 14,013, which is down 17.0% from last year.

It’s easy to see why.

  1. Gas-car fuel-economy continues to improve, reducing the cost benefit of a high mileage hybrid-car like the Prius (ex. The 2012 Corolla got 29 combined city/hwy mpg. The 2018 gets 32.)
  2. The Prius is more expensive than comparable gas-cars (The base 2018 Prius costs about $5,000 more than the Corolla. Including interest and taxes, the price difference is approx. $5,400. At average fuel cost of $2.50/gal you’d need to drive the Prius 180,000 to save $5,400 in gas vs. the Corolla. But that doesn’t include the cost of replacing the Prius battery, which has a lifespan of about 8 years or 100,000 miles in most states. A replacement battery with a 3 year warranty costs about $2,500, so that ups the minimum break-even mileage to 263,000. It’s not clear how many batteries will be needed to get to that mileage, so you probably can’t break even. Ever. Unless gas prices go significantly higher.)
  3. The Prius is not as good as comparable gas cars (not fun to drive, slow, heavy, etc. The Corolla is 2,840 lbs. The Prius is 3,010 lbs. The Corolla has 132 hp vs. Prius at 121 hp. The Corolla goes 0-60 in 9.5 seconds. The Prius is a full second slower.

BTW I only compared the Corolla because it’s about the same size as the Prius and also made by Toyota. There are a better/faster cars in this size range than the Corolla. For example, the Honda Civic is a much better car, goes 0-60 in 8.2 seconds and costs $4,500 less than the Prius. My point here is that the Prius is under-powered, slow and heavy, even compared with a below-average car like the Corolla.

The above leaves Toyota selling Priuses to people who just like the car, and/or people who feel reduced fossil fuel consumption is more important than value.

Update 2:

Oct and Nov Bolt sales totaled 5,768 for the 2 months. Sales have been rising every month since Feb. Good job Chevy.

Meanwhile, Tesla has stumbled. They’ve gotten only 712 Model 3s out the door so far, although half of those were shipped in Nov. Maybe they’ve solved their production issues.


I wrote the post below on 7/20/17. I included Bolt sales thru June 2017, which totaled 7,600. For July to September Chevy sold another 6,710. Monthly sales have grown each month since February. Beginning June 2016 the Bolt’s monthly sales were greater than the Prius Prime, Toyota’s plug-in hybrid. The fully electric Bolt sold more than 2,000 cars each month for August and September.

So the title to this post is not right. It should be “Surprise! People are buying Chevy Bolts”.

I don’t know if Chevy has any unusual deals that are moving cars, or whether there really is demand. Tesla is having trouble getting cars off the production line and they have a long wait list. So if you want an EV right now, with a 200 mile range for about $35,000, there is only one car you can get: the Bolt.

Original Post:

When the Bolt was first released I wondered why anyone would buy one.

Well, it’s been 6 months and Chevy has sold a whopping 7,600 of them, and has shut the factory that makes the Bolt and the Sonic.

Meanwhile, Tesla is about the start shipping the Model 3. The Model 3 sells for the same price as the Bolt, gets about the same miles-per-charge, but looks fantastic and is a state of the art vehicle. As of May 2016 Tesla said they received pre-orders for 373,000 cars. I think they took a $1,000 deposit per pre-order.

Even if half the pre-orders never materialize, that’s still an astounding 186,000 Teslas vs. only 7,600 Chevys. It makes sense to assume all the early adopters interested in the Bolt already bought theirs. The outlook for Chevy selling many Bolts is grim.

This isn’t hard to understand. If GM were going to sell a new state-of-the-art car, assigning it to their bottom-of-the-barrel division was stupid. A BMW or Mercedes or Audi buyer would not get a Chevy. But they would certainly consider a Tesla. It’s not just status – if you compare the cars, the Bolt is clearly the ugly step sister. Given that they cost the same, the choice couldn’t be clearer.

I don’t know whether to be happy about this or not. On the one hand it’s good that Chevy failed with the Bolt, because other car companies need to know not to devote resources if you don’t have a clue what will sell and what won’t. But on the other hand I want cars made better, and Chevy’s failures with the Volt, and now the Bolt, may suppress development of updated technology. Car companies don’t want to emulate Chevy and may be unwilling to risk failure by taking a leading role.

I guess the bottom line is this – if you are a car company and can’t figure out what a good car is, then get out of the business.




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