For the past few months, the Tesla Model 3 — a car that won’t even enter production for another 18 months or more — has well and truly dominated the electric car news cycle. From small niche fan blogs to multi-billion dollar media organizations, few weeks have passed where the Model 3 hasn’t been discussed in some form or another.
And while we’re happy to see Tesla become such a success we, and plenty others in our industry, have been suffering some Tesla fatigue. After all, there are plenty of other automakers out there. How difficult is it to find a story that isn’t about Elon Musk’s herculean goal of making the world run on solar power?
Naturally, a story big enough to eclipse the Tesla Model 3 would need to be pretty special. And so far, few stories have even come close to doing that.
But when social media erupted at the tail end of last week with the news that Detroit automaker (and sworn enemy of Tesla Motors) General Motors had a brand-new electric sports car, we got a little excited. Called the Chevrolet Jolt, it seemed to be based on the upcoming 2017 Chevrolet Bolt, leveraging the compact car’s underpinnings to produce a sporty two-seat coupe. There were pictures. There was a website. And it was full of the kind of marketing speak that we’re used to hearing from the media relations department of every single major automaker — including Tesla.
Yet despite the impressive website and social media presence, there was no mention of the Chevrolet Jolt on GM’s corporate website. The Chevy Jolt and its website (www.chevyjoltev.com) aren’t real, GM isn’t preparing a two-seat sports coupe with a plug called the Jolt EV, and it’s not entering production in 2018.
The website, while a gloriously believable reproduction of a Chevrolet product page from the font choice down to the immaculately crafted images, is not connected in any way with GM. It was registered through GoDaddy on March 10. And while it originally was set up to look like a real, GM site, the owner has (presumably after hearing from GM’s legal team) liberally spread hints around the site confirming that the car isn’t real but should be, calling it a “proposal” for GM to consider making the Chevrolet Jolt EV as a real production vehicle.
The Chevy Jolt may not exist, but it speaks to an unmet desire for small, sporty EVs. You may or may not have seen the Jolt: combination creation of GM Chevrolet’s concept team and an automotive unbrand-affiliated brand-strategist called Matt Teske. Based on the 2012 GM concept car the Tru 140S which was intended to be exotically styled, but very conventionally powered (with a very ordinary 1.4 liter turbocharged 4 cylinder engine lurking under that aggressive hood). “A front-wheel-drive, affordable exotic four-seat sporty coupe,” the press release proclaims, all with a production price of under $20k.
It was all about attempting to achieve brand engagement in the increasingly difficult to access youth driving market. As younger people struggle financially, and lack interest in both driving and ownership of vehicles, automakers are clambering over each other as they attempt to find some secret sauce that sells cars to this demographic. The Tru 140S was one such attempt. But despite not seeing the light of day as a production car, the Tru 140S combined with its younger kin, the upcoming Bolt and perhaps more importantly, the Bolt’s underlying platform, to inspire Teske to mock-up the complete Jolt EV website.
Frustrated by the “HUGE demand and interest” but lack of variety in currently available production EVs, Teske was driven to create. He comments that “The hard truth is that traditional automotive brands are not equipped to address how the digital age has transformed buyers expectation for automobiles”. And whilst he didn’t expect an enormous amount of interest for his Jolt site, produced it as a labor of love.
The Jolt EV site works; it’s a self-contained world in which GM have opted to bring a second innovative electric vehicle to market. And in doing so it’s proved Teske’s point. His first server crashed, rapidly, under the load of interested visitors forcing him to upload the site to a more resilient server with more bandwidth. He indicates that he’s had interest from people across the US and around the world. And whilst it’s unlikely that Chevrolet will be rushing to put the Bolt’s underpinnings into a Jolt — they seem instead to currently be fighting to get the site pulled — on an About page that is not, at first sight, obvious, he pushes GM and other automakers to up their game.
It almost reads as another manifesto from someone in the auto industry dissatisfied with progress and attitudes from the automakers.
Commenting on GMs avowed disinclination to invest in EV charging, he pushes the automaker to at least encourage dealerships to install rapid chargers. This, Teske points out is a minimum investment policy that would see a proliferation of rapid chargers at sites that, whilst not ideal, are often not far from freeways and highways. He goes on to say that this kind of development would make use of GM’s dealer network, a group that are often concerned by reduced maintenance needs for EVs, by putting chargers there Teske posits, customers will be encouraged to spend time at dealers. And he pushes Chevrolet to extend the Bolt platform into a much broader variety of EVs than we’re seeing from any manufacturers other than Tesla and Nissan.
As manufacturers increasingly develop EV platforms on which multiple form factors can be developed, and yet manufacturers persist in producing only mid-size family saloons, interest in Teske’s Jolt proves he is not alone in desiring variety. Perhaps the substantial interest in this non-existent car might encourage other manufacturers to branch out and produce some more interesting EVs as the market finally shows signs of opening up. More likely though, it’s a wish that’s going to go unfulfilled a while longer.
Would you have a Jolt in your garage? Or do you only see EVs as filling the standard family car segment? Let us know in the Comments below.
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