GM’s Key Words for Long-Range Chevrolet Bolt EV: Affordable, Mainstream, Everyday

It might only be four and-a-half years since the current generation of plug-in electric vehicles hit dealer lots around the world, but in that time, electric vehicles have had to deal with the two negative stereotypes which still stubbornly persist.

The former says that electric cars have limited range, aren’t fun to drive and can’t travel very far. The latter says that the only electric cars that counter that are super-expensive high-performance cars for the ultra-rich — and even those which prove the first stereotype true are too expensive for the average car buyer to consider.

GM is keen to promote the Chevrolet Bolt EV as a car for everyone -- will it succeed?

GM is keen to promote the Chevrolet Bolt EV as a car for everyone — will it succeed?

But those stereotypes will soon be a distant memory thanks to the upcoming 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV, says numerous General Motors executives and engineers . Indeed, as our friends at GreenCarReports detail from last week’s official North American press briefing for the 2016 Chevrolet Cruze compact sedan, it’s a message that has everyone from backroom engineers to GM CEO Mary Barra is happy to reiterate at a moment’s notice.

Talking at the 2016 Chevrolet Cruze reveal on Wednesday last week, Bara’s message was clear: General Motors isn’t a company interested in building cars that only the wealthiest customers can buy. Instead, it is focused on bringing cleaner, greener, smarter and safer cars to everyone.

“Making technology attainable also extends to electric vehicles,” she said. “To make the biggest impact, it takes an engineering organization with the scale and expertise to built electric vehicles for everyone, not just the elite.”

Mary Barra wants the Bolt EV to be for everyone.

Mary Barra wants the Bolt EV to be for everyone.

It’s a message that was reiterated later on in the day by Pam Fl;etcher, GM’s executive cheif engineer for electric vehicles. Reiterating Bara’s statement, she said that GM is focused on making “electric cars approachable to the all, not just the elite.”

“We will make electrification approachable, meaningful, and relevant to all,” she said. The first car to do that? The upcoming 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV, of course.

To make the biggest impact, it takes an engineering organization with the scale and expertise to built electric vehicles for everyone, not just the elite.Mary Barra, GM CEO

With a target price of $30,000 after applicable Federal tax incentives, the Chevrolet Bolt EV is expected to enter into production in October 2016 ahead of a late 2016 or early 2017 launch. When it was first unveiled at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January, the Chevrolet Bolt EV was marketed as a fresh, funky electric car packed with plenty of features to help it cope with today’s modern megacities…and a range of at least 200 miles to help it escape the urban jungle at the weekend.

Currently, the only automaker offering an all-electric car capable of 200 miles or more of range is Tesla Motors, whose entry-level Tesla Model S 70D luxury full-size sedan starts at $75,000 before incentives with no options ticked. That’s more than twice the claimed price of the Chevrolet Bolt EV.

The Tesla Model S isn't exactly cheap -- But Tesla has plans for an affordable EV in the upcoming Model 3.

The Tesla Model S isn’t exactly cheap — But Tesla has plans for an affordable EV in the upcoming Model 3.

By anyone’s reckoning, the Model S is certainly marketed towards the upper end of the electric car marketplace, far out of reach for many everyday car buyers. And that’s the marketing angle GM appears to be taking with the Bolt EV.

GM’s marketing ploy however isn’t exactly subtle. It’s clear that GM is eagerly targeting Tesla as the overpriced, unobtainable automaker in order to set itself up as the affordable long-distance electric automaker. In some ways, GM may very well have said ‘Tesla makes luxury electric cars — we’ll make affordable ones‘.

But while that may work right now, GM’s current tactic may not have the longevity that it hopes.

That’s because both Nissan and Tesla Motors are expected to be producing affordable, long-range (super 200-mile) electric cars in the next few years. As we detailed last week, Nissan is already well under way with testing its own long-range Nissan LEAF prototypes, presumably on the way to producing a longer-range second-generation Nissan LEAF in time for the expected model refresh in 2017.

Tesla meanwhile, has plans to bring its Tesla Model ≡ electric car to market some time in 2017. Rumoured to offer at least 200-miles of all-electric capability and sized to cross-shop with BMW’s popular 3-Series sedan, Tesla is targeting a sticker price of $35,000 before incentives. To make that price point possible, Tesla is already well-under way with construction of its massive Gigafactory lithium-ion manufacturing and processing plant in Reno, Nevada.

If Tesla and Nissan both bring their respective longer-range electric cars to market in a similar time frame to GM and at a similar price point, GM’s argument of producing affordable electric cars for everyone becomes a moot point. We should note too, that GM’s 2016 Cadillac ELR range-extended electric coupe — which is based on the same technology found in the outgoing 2015 Chevrolet Volt range-extended EV — isn’t exactly cheap either, with a base-model entry price of $65,995 before incentives or options.

If we’re brutally honest we think that makes the words ‘Pot,’ ‘Kettle,’ and ‘Black’ come to mind .

GM conveniently ignored Nissan, which is currently working on its own long-range EV.

GM conveniently ignored Nissan, which is currently working on its own long-range EV.

As John Voelcker of GreenCarReports notes too, GM’s very targeted statements on making electric cars accessible to all conveninently side-step GM’s biggest electric car competitor to date: Nissan.

The world’s best selling electric car, the Nissan LEAF has slowly dropped in price in the four and-a-half years since its market debut. In some markets Nissan even offers customers the choice to buy their cars outright but least the battery pack, dramatically lowering the entry level point for electric vehicle ownership and from a financial point of view, making LEAF ownership feel more like a conventional car with a monthly battery rental fee taking the place of a monthly gas bill.

Here at Transport Evolved, we’re pleased to see development progressing so well for the Chevrolet Bolt EV, but we can’t help wonder if GM’s current promotional angle for the Bolt EV will help the Detroit giant gain a competitive edge on other long-range electric cars being planned for release in a similar time frame.

We’ll find out in a few years’ time.

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