General Motors On Tesla: We Don’t Need Pre-Orders To Bring Chevrolet Bolt EV to Market

Unless you’ve been asleep under a very large rock for the past week, you’ll know that the green car news has been chock full of information about the Tesla Model 3 electric car. Unveiled for the first time last week at an exclusive reveal event at Tesla Motors [NASDAQ:TSLA] design center in Hawthorne, California, the Tesla Model 3 is predicted to go on sale some time in late 2017 with a real-world range of around 215 miles per charge, a 0-60 mph time of under 6 seconds, and a starting price tag of $35,000 before incentives.

Since Tesla began accepting $1,000 (or local currency equivalent) in refundable pre-order deposits for Model 3 early on Thursday morning, more than 300,000 people worldwide have put their names down to buy one. And as we noted yesterday, while final specifications haven’t been tied down — and the cars we saw on Thursday evening were very much early alpha prototypes — nothing seems to be able to slow down the Tesla hype.

GM couldn't resist taking a dig at Tesla's reservation holder list.

GM couldn’t resist taking a dig at Tesla’s reservation holder list.

While you might think that some automakers would be threatened by the Tesla Model 3’s massive popularity, that doesn’t appear to be the case. Carlos Ghosn, CEO of Renault-Nissan, went on the record yesterday to hail the Model 3’s runaway success as being nothing but good news for all-electric cars. Now General Motors, whose upcoming 200-mile, 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV compact electric car is due to enter production this fall, has said it’s not worried about the Model 3 either.

Unlike Ghosn’s positive comments welcoming the Tesla Model 3 to the marketplace, GM’s take on the Model 3 is a little more adversarial and a whole lot more… snide.

GM has been fighting against Tesla's direct-to-customer sales model for years.

GM has been fighting against Tesla’s direct-to-customer sales model for years.

As Autobloggreen details, GM held a backgrounder event yesterday designed to explore the Chevrolet Bolt EV’s battery pack and drivetrain in more depth. At it, GM spokesperson Fred Ligouri made it clear how GM felt about the Model 3 and its popularity in the past week. Like Renault-Nissan, GM says mass-market interest into electric vehicles is a positive thing for everyone, but Ligouri couldn’t help make comment about the fact that Tesla was asking its customers to put money down on the Model 3 long before it enters production.

“We haven’t taken any [pre orders],” he said. “We don’t need [pre orders] to begin building our products.”

It’s a clear dig at Tesla which, despite showing working prototypes on Thursday last week, was showing early alpha engineering vehicles with plenty of not-yet-finished features. The unspoken but clearly inferrable undertone?  That Tesla can’t afford to pay for vehicle development — or convince investors to provide it the funds it needs to bring the Model 3 to market — without first gaining hundreds of thousands of interested would-be buyers.

“We’re really excited to offer [the Chevrolet Bolt EV] when it goes into retail production at the end of this year to those that have expressed interest and we’ll work through our great network of dealerships to get them to customers,” he continued.

While readers may view Ligouri’s comments as indicative of a company feeling threatened by a rival, we feel they more accurately represent the continuation of a strained relationship between GM and Tesla which has seen both companies trade insults with one another for an extended period of time.

If we ignore the anti-electric car comments made by GM back when the Chevrolet Volt first entered the market back in late 2010 (in which GM played on customer’s fears of running out of charge to justify using a range-extended rather than an all-electric drivetrain for the first-generation Volt), GM and Tesla have more recently fought bitterly about the way in which Tesla makes and sells its cars.

The Chevy Bolt and Tesla Model 3 are very different cars, despite their shared price point.

The Chevy Bolt and Tesla Model 3 are very different cars, despite their shared price point.

As a traditional automaker, GM manufacturers its cars then sells them through franchised third-party dealerships, a model which it has been following for decades. Tesla meanwhile, manufacturers and sells its cars direct to customers, cutting out the middleman altogether. And that’s upset both GM and the powerful auto dealer associations that represent thousands of franchised auto dealerships across the U.S.

To protect its own interests and the interests of its dealers, GM has even lobbied against Tesla in state legislature — and even courts — across the U.S., co authoring legislation designed to make Tesla’s direct-to-consumer sales model unwelcome in as many states as possible.

Even though the Chevrolet Bolt EV and Tesla Model 3 will retail for a similar price ($35,000 before incentives for the Model 3 and $35,00-$37,500 after incentives for the Bolt EV) GM has also worked hard to paint Tesla as the automaker focusing on out-of-reach luxury electric cars. Despite its higher price, GM has worked hard to market the Bolt EV as an all-American car for that everyday Americans can afford to drive.

It even decided to hold a photo shoot for the Bolt EV in downtown Palo Alto where Tesla’s HQ is based to drive the point home (and perhaps flip the bird Tesla’s way too).

Although some may argue that Tesla has the edge on GM in terms of customer interest and pre-orders, it’s fair to note that those choosing the Chevrolet Bolt EV will get their cars a lot faster than most Tesla Model 3 reservation holders will. Even if Tesla manages to dramatically increase factory production output, it’s likely that some customers — specifically those towards the end of the ever-increasing waiting list —  have another two (maybe even three) years of waiting ahead of them before their car rolls off a Tesla production line.

It’s also fair to argue however that those who wait for the Model 3 will likely find themselves with a long-distance car that is better suited to long-distance travel beyond the 200+ miles offered by its on-board battery pack. That’s because while Tesla has its rapidly expanding Supercharger network where customers can charge their cars (even if pricing for access for Model 3 customers hasn’t been officially confirmed by Tesla yet) GM has no such network, and doesn’t seem to believe that infrastructure development is part of its electric vehicle remit.

Given the ongoing spat between the two companies over their electric car strategies, it’s hardly surprising that GM has responded to the Model 3 the way in which it has, welcoming the competition while simultaneously availing itself of the opportunity to have a dig at Tesla’s overhyped launch at the same time.

But as we said yesterday, we’d prefer it if automakers focused on working together to drive electric vehicle adoption rather than dismissing each other’s efforts.


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  • CDspeed

    Of course no one has pre-ordered the Bolt, it’s another funky hatchback, and you’d have to go into one of Chevrolet’s sleazy dealerships, and you have to hope they even know what a Bolt is.

    • Jeff Songster

      Another excellent point… dealing with their mobster style dealerships… while they try to keep Tesla from selling directly to customers using underhanded legal tactics and monopolistic practices. You will have to convince the dealers that you actually want to buy the car as they try to use it to get people into their piranha infested showrooms and service bays.

    • owlafaye

      Chevrolet Sleazy Dealerships is correct.

      BOLT is another GM loser.

  • Paul Gracey

    I worked under the aegis of the GM company for several years. They were originally and have always been a marketing firm first and a car manufacturer second. Check yourself for the last auto ad of any sort you saw and the chances are high it was a GM product. Further for all those years GM would send me glossy brochures proffering a company discount for any thing inside. They never offered that discount on cars in their line that sold themselves or would serve my needs. Check that out for yourself too.
    The Bolt, already described as to be sold in a limited market, and in limited numbers does indeed not need the money down to hold it. GM will get it from the profits on poorly designed other vehicles and, for that reason, their EV will in the aggregate be a polluting product as it had to depend upon the sales gas guzzling pick-ups, and other roadhogs obscuring your vision in the eternal traffic jam that is GM’s vision of paradise. That is if you can even get one.
    I told the nice lady at Tesla when I put my money down, That I had been on another waiting list long ago, for an EV1 that I never even had a chance to Lease let alone own.

  • Deposit reservations aside; what matters is number of butts in seats and EV miles driven each year.

    It will be interesting to compare GM and Tesla PEV deliveries as of Dec 31, 2016. I really think 2016/17 is a milestone period for the auto industry as things are about to change significantly in next five years.

    While GM has delivered over 90,000 Volts it has not been as successful with it’s BEV, the Spark EV. There are many lessons that GM can learn from the Spark EV and apply then them in preparation for the Bolt BEV rollout.
    Hint: there potential Spark owners waiting to place an order for a Spark EV in many localities … but have few options to do so.

    While the Bolt BEV production is said to start in 2016, there is almost no detail on where the vehicle could be purchased, or what m production numbers can be expected.

    2018 should be a very interesting year as multiple BEV models with 150+ miles (~259+ km) amp up production and deliveries. I for one will be watching BMW, GM, Nissan, Tesla and others.

  • Wild

    Neither company needs pre orders to bring their vehicles to market, they need capital. Tesla will have to raise a billion++ or so and GM will rely on dirty money from selling polluting cars to finance the low volume production Bolt. I don’t care about all this I want to see the alleged $35,000 base Model 3 and what it actually look like before we have to go to the bank for financing this $42,000 and up car.

  • Denys Allard

    GM has been in business a lot longer than Tesla has. Companies taking pre-orders to raise capital is not uncommon.

    • Brian Kent

      Actually that’s not true. You’ll remember GM recently took a massive taxpayer bailout and restructured, so it’s technically a newer automaker than is Tesla.

      Oh, and Tesla paid back its loan from the feds with interest. GM?

      • Denys Allard

        It doesn’t matter if GM restructured. They have still been in business much longer than Tesla and have more capital. GM also shouldn’t be bashing Tesla about reliability issues with the Model S. GM has had several recalls in the past.

    • Jeff Songster

      If GM hadn’t been bailed out by our taxpayers… they might need to take deposits… if they even wanted to sell 300k of the Bolt cars. Which they apparently don’t. Just like with EV1… which they shamefully killed mercilessly, they seem to be making a show product. With their marketing muscle they could be leading… they could have been installing chargers and selling loads of these cars from many years ago… they chose not to. Now they are not really pushing this car… when I see thousands of CCS DC Quick Chargers installed every 100 or 150 miles across America I will believe they are serious. I want to believe in GM… but killing the EV, getting bailed out, planning for only smallish sales of BOLT as a niche product rather than pushing fully into the new era… proves their true intent. Metering out innovation slowly and continuing to milk existing investments rather than really getting behind the newer longer term ones. Their spokesperson unfortunately reflects their idiotic arrogance.

      • Denys Allard

        You are so right. So far, Tesla has achieved everything that they originally set out to do including getting the other car manufacturers to step up their game towards electrification. Some other companies have been installing the CCS infrastructure and some progress has been made. I think there will be a lot of interest in the Chevy Bolt and hopefully GM will finally see the light.

    • owlafaye

      True, however Tesla doesn’t actually need the capital. It is welcome and helpful of course.

  • vdiv

    Funny thing is I can go to the nearby Tesla store (which we were lucky to get last year) and drive out in a Model S, but after all of the noise that GM has made for the past quarter of a century I still cannot buy a GM EV in my state, not even the tiny Spark EV.

  • Joe Viocoe

    People forget that even though GM may not have a waiting list for the bolt, people will still be waiting for the bolt.

    There is no way they can produce enough vehicles for the demand for a 200 mile EV. Especially if they are production constrained with their batteries from LG chem.

    • Daniel Zamir

      Actually I expect demand to be quite low. Even before the 3 it would compete with the i3 in terms of price, design and range. Why range? Since without a high-speed charging network what you have is a city car. And with the range extender on the i3 200 mi is around what you will get.

      Now add the model 3 and you have an ugly city car that you can’t sell in 4 years.

      • Joe Viocoe

        Regardless of ample competition… demand exceeds production. The market is no where near saturation… which is why the EV automakers are saying they aren’t concerned about competition, and actually welcoming it, because it expands the market.

    • owlafaye

      GM will not meet what little demand exists for the BOLT….it is a typical trouble plagued new automobile, over-priced, hastily designed, far short of what the public needs and wants. Like a lot of GM ideas, doomed to failure.

  • Brian Kent

    Ligouri is woefully out of touch with EV consumers, who don’t really want to hear a gas car company badmouth a pure electric car company. Hooray! 18 years later and you finally got with the program. [email protected]$$!

    He can sneer at Tesla all he wants, all the while flipping consumers the bird with GM’s desperate struggles to prevent the Tesla sales model from becoming the norm. Merely because the “big” automakers have no clue how to build to order in volume, and as a result are resigned to crapping out mass quantities of cars that people don’t precisely want, and have to struggle through dealerships to haggle a price on.

    Musk and Tesla are redesigning the automotive industry, and despite what dignitaries of the old guard may say, they will need to change their tune soon. To become more like Tesla, not less.

  • youpidou

    “we’d prefer it if automakers focused on working together to drive electric vehicle adoption rather than dismissing each other’s efforts.”

    This is so true! Seeing how many customers line up to pre-order a product should drive automakers to roll up their sleeves and make it widely available (and rechargeable) asap. As opposed to making statements to ensure everyone knows how testosterone-driven they are.

  • David Galvan

    “$35,000 before incentives for the Model 3 and $35,00-$37,500 after incentives for the Bolt EV”

    Correction: Chevy is offering the Bolt for $37,500 BEFORE incentives. Not “after”.

  • Brock Nanson

    With Tesla’s admission of ‘Hubris’ surrounding the ramp-up of the Model X, I can’t help but read GM’s comments and think that perhaps they are suffering from even more excessive pride and self-confidence than Tesla. But they sure don’t admit to that!!! GM strives to build mediocre products, so why would the Bolt (or Blot as it has been auto-corrected to in some places) be any different? The electric asteroid is coming fast, and the dinosaur ICE manufacturers are in for a big surprise.

  • Compare this to Ghosn’s reaction on the Tesla Model 3 and you know who’s really serious about electric cars.

  • The revenge of the electric car starts by supporting only companies that really believe and support electrification.
    Not as a side project, not for projecting a greener image, not even for competition to other companies.

    • Daniel Zamir

      Great documentary. After watching it I admit I overestimated Nissan and completely underestimated Tesla.

  • Farmer_Dave

    GM may not require deposits for pre-orders, but their sleazy dealers sure do!

  • Rob Barros

    Chevy has made so many mistakes in it’s hybrid-EV efforts… and it’s blatantly obvious.

    First, had they brought the Volt prototype into production, instead of the “watered-down styling”; Tesla would probably be relegated to only upper-end vehicles.

    Now the Bolt… First, you are still designing cars on traditional frames and styling. You expect people to get excitd about this? Are your designers kept in a dark, moldy closet?

    Tesla is exciting for obvious reasons… I want the safest car possible for my family. Zero-emissions is really a misnomer until you install solar on your house, but I can do this in stages. Teslas drive like rockets on rails – they move! How is that not fun? Their sales team shot completely straight with me, answered every question without hesitation, just as my best friend would. (This is no small matter) That earned my trust!

    Finally, I have owned (the same) 1966 muscle car since I was 18 (going on 32 years)… and followed Tesla since the start. The Roadster even today is still cool, but never practical. The S while awesome is far to expensive. Honestly, I don’t understand why Tesla continues to bother with Model X (and I have kids and a minivan).

    But Tesla Model 3 hits the “sweet spot”. Engineering first, fun, practical, and a team of people (from the bottom up) that I would gladly invite to my family dinner table. That last one… I would never dream of considering with any other car company.

  • Daniel Zamir

    I expect some leasing but very few will buy this car. If you can’t realistically do a road trip without unreasonable amount of planning what have is a city car. Plus the price point, demand is not expected to be much more than the i3.
    But it will be even lower. Because with the model 3 who will buy a car that you might not be able to sell in 4 years?

  • glecko

    Comment a day late and a dollar short – but how about the comparison of the Model 3 and the Bolt from purely size / utility standpoint. Model 3 wins in every aspect. Stupid annoying GM. I was seriously considering a Volt and thought the Bolt looked interesting as well. How can I, in good conscience, support GM vehicles when they are completely stuck in the 1900’s …

    Go away GM. If only our US government would have let you fail, we may have seen real innovation rising from the ashes.

  • owlafaye

    The BOLT will suffer many new design problems for a few years before they are fairly well built…that is if they survive. Being a plug ugly electric automobile is a great disadvantage…You have to sell the customer Ugly & Electric…….it isn’t going to happen. The VOLT is a steady loser and the BOLT will follow the same path. They will both be relegated to electric car history.