As World Races Toward Mass Electric Car Adoption, Analyst Says GM Will Sell 30k-80k Chevy Bolt EVs in First Year

If there’s one thing that we’ve learned in the past two months about electric cars, it’s that there has been a dramatic and noticeable shift in attitudes towards cars that run on electricity rather than gasoline. From the unexpected, unprecedented numbers of people putting their name down to buy a Tesla Model 3 electric car to the way in which the alluring, if fake, Chevrolet Jolt EV website gained social media notoriety just a few hours after going live, something is blatantly clear.

People are willing, ready and able to buy a 200-mile mass-market affordable electric car, regardless of the badge on the front.

The Bolt EV could sell up to 80,000 units in its first year, says one analyst.

The Bolt EV could sell up to 80,000 units in its first year, says one analyst.

Which is perhaps why one analyst is predicting that the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV, General Motor’s first long-distance, affordable, five-seat electric car, will sell between 30,000 and 80,000 units in its first year of production. That’s the kind of volume which would move Chevrolet’s electric car efforts from being a niche-market also ran on GM’s monthly sales charts to being a meaningful, tangible proportion of GM’s overall output.

Enter Kelley Blue Book analyst Karl Brauer who, as Autobloggreen details, made his prediction of Chevy Bolt EV sales to Barron’s last month, shortly after Tesla Motors [NASDAQ:TSLA] unveiled the Tesla Model 3. And while such production figures may have seemed outlandish a year ago (or even a few months ago), the more than 400,000 reservations now placed for the Tesla Model 3 means that we can not only call these figures plausible but probable too.

It makes sense that the Model 3 won't be the only popular EV out there.

It makes sense that the Model 3 won’t be the only popular EV out there.

Why? If we ignore the ongoing spat between Tesla and GM over franchised dealerships and Tesla’s direct-to-customer sales model, it’s easy to see that the Chevrolet Bolt EV, despite its expected higher sticker price over the Tesla Model 3, is likely to have some advantages over its California rival. While Tesla may take the upper hand on charging availability and technology thanks to its extensive Supercharger network and exhaustive work on Autopilot autonomous drive technology, Chevrolet will likely win on availability and production volume.

That’s because Tesla — despite hinting that it is looking to expand production to more locations around the world — has one main production facility at the current time and a few ‘final assembly facilities’ where U.S.-built cars receive market-specific customization for European and Asian customers. GM meanwhile, has automotive production facilities on every continent. While many of those facilities are already operating at or near capacity with other GM vehicles, it would be fairly trivial — with enough investment from GM — to bring several production facilities on line to handle local Bolt EV production for different markets, as Nissan did back in 2012 when it shifted LEAF production from one Japanese factory to three different factories around the world.

And while Tesla as a brand is a strong one that people aspire to — a brand that is in tune with a new type of car buyer that wants their vehicle to be a clean, green, sophisticated computer on wheels — there are some who want their car to be a little less silicon valley and a little more Detroit.

GM's market for the Bolt EV isn't the same as the Tesla Model 3.

GM’s market for the Bolt EV isn’t the same as the Tesla Model 3.

For those who are hardened Tesla fans, that last fact may seem strange. But it’s true: for the right price, the Chevrolet Bolt EV could be a strong seller for GM, engaging existing Chevy customers who currently drive cars like the Chevrolet Spark, Chevrolet Sonic and Chevrolet Malibu. While Tesla’s market share among luxury electric cars, and electric cars as a whole, is growing; GM’s strategy seems to be one which involves encouraging existing GM customers to make the switch to all electric.

That’s a shift from the Chevy Volt, which was something of a conquest car for the brand. And while we’ll admit that GM hasn’t openly stated what its marketing strategy is, we think the language so far from GM on the Bolt EV is pretty clear: GM wants its younger, tech-savvy customers to stick with the brand, dump the pump, and opt for a Bolt EV.

But there’s another reason too, albeit one which could leave a sour taste in the mouths of EV fans: as Autobloggreen notes, high sales figures of the Bolt EV would give GM a massive rise in its Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) figures. Like all automakers, GM must meet ever-increasingly high fuel economy figures averaged over its entire fleet. Selling high numbers of the Bolt EV would give GM some breathing room in its most popular market segments: full-size SUVs and pickup trucks. Those cars, traditionally the most profitable for automakers like GM, are struggling to meet more stringent fuel economy and emissions targets, but large volume sales of the Bolt EV could negate that problem — at least for a few years.

We suspect GM is hoping its younger buyers -- who currently opt for the Sonic -- will switch to Bolt EV.

We suspect GM is hoping its younger buyers — who currently opt for the Sonic — will switch to Bolt EV.

Regardless of where you stand on the reasons we’ve given, we think GM’s zeal for the Bolt EV and the urgency with which it is trying to bring its first 200+ mile electric car to market shows that it is deadly serious about making the Bolt EV a mainstream addition to the Chevrolet family.

For that to happen, it needs to sell 30,000 to 80,000 examples per year. And while there are fleets of electric car fans, advocates, and enthusiasts who cry ‘Never GM,’ after the way it has acted in the past toward electric cars — and its continued negative actions toward Tesla, it’s worth remembering one very simple fact.

Tesla may have managed 400,000 Model 3 reservations. But that’s tiny compared with the number of cars GM churns out every year. What’s more, your average car buyer isn’t as worried about GM’s approach to Tesla as you might think.

They just want to turn up at a dealer, pay their money, and get a car that’s cheap to run, fun to drive, meets their needs and reflects their personality.

And that’s something GM is willing and able to provide.

Luckily, there’s room for both sorts of electric car buyers in the automotive world — just as there’s room for the Tesla Model 3 and Chevy Bolt EV. After all, both are as important as the other in accelerating the shift towards cleaner, greener cars.


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  • Joseph Dubeau

    LG Chem could be supplying batteries for between 30,000 and 80,000 Chevy Bolts during first year’s sales. Imagine that.
    Each one with a 60 kWh lithium-ion battery pack. That’s about 1.8 to 4.8 gigawatt-hours per year.
    Looks like the LG Chem’s Holland Plant is going to be the first Giga Factory.

    • Joe Viocoe

      They would have to ramp up much faster than even Tesla. LG Chem talks big… And made big claims about being the “largest supplier of EV batteries.”
      In reality, they are in far 3rd place behind Panasonic.

      Bottom line, 80,000 60 kwh packs in the first year, is a pipe dream for LG CHEM. Their best projections were based on small PHEV packs.

      • Joseph Dubeau

        Laughable. This is just a single LG Chem plant. There are many more.

        • Joe Viocoe

          Panasonic has many more too. Otherwise, the first Gigafactory has already been built and running for years in Japan.

        • Martin Lacey

          How can you argue with the numbers?

          • Joseph Dubeau

            What numbers? You didn’t provided any.

        • Martin Lacey

          Joe Viocoe did and you replied laughable.

          What is more laughable:
          A) dismissing facts someone else has taken time to collate?
          B) applying the same illogical fanboy attitude you accuse Tesla devotees of in anything not Tesla?

          Either way you win that one!

          • Joseph Dubeau

            I’m not trying win anything. You guys like to bash GM and Bolt.
            And attack anyone who show interest.

          • Martin Lacey

            How often have I said I hope GM sell 80k in their first year.

            I want them to succeed – I just think they are going about it half assed. The next time I slag them off will be the first.

    • Martin Lacey

      IF the analysts projections are correct…

      Seeing as how you play devils advocate with every Tesla prediction, we may as well keep you true with regards to other manufacturers.

      I wonder how many folks will wait to compare the two brands? For sure the Bolt is a compelling product and is first to market, but all the hype surrounding the Model 3 could well work against GM, until folks can do a side by side comparison and test drive both. Plus GM are hampering their own efforts by not offering RHD or contributing to a charging network.

      I still think it’s a compliance car, which is a terrible shame and very shortsighted if GM continue to treat it that way.

      • Joseph Dubeau

        Right 80,000 in sales the first year, that is one hell of a compliance car.

        • Martin Lacey

          I hope GM do sell 80k, but they are not helping themselves as already stated….. please read my comments in full because I can’t be bothered repeating myself for your benefit.

        • Farmer_Dave

          Don’t confuse a pundit’s guess with reality. The year’s almost half over and GM hasn’t sold a single one.

          • Joseph Dubeau

            For 2017 sales. If demand is there why not. I like the Chevy Bolt.

          • Erm… because it hasn’t launched yet? But if most had to choose between GM hitting a production deadline and Tesla hitting one, it’d be GM who wins. Even if the Model 3 may end up being more popular.

          • vdiv

            So one wants to make EVs, but can’t, and the other can make EVs but won’t and is fucking with everyone else that does.

  • Chris

    Those projections sound low to me considering how many the leaf has sold and how this is much more of a compelling car for a decent price in a more mature market.

    • Martin Lacey

      Hi Chris,

      The Leaf has sold just over 200k in six years from launch globally (roughly 33k PA). For much of that time the Leaf was market leader as it’s range and price made it competitive. It is only in recent months that the Leaf has looked lacking with the advent of 200 mile range EV’s around the corner and sales have slowed. But the rumour is that a 60KWHr version is on it’s way.

      To my mind the analyst has taken the leaf annual sales (20k – 60k) and used them as the base line. Which shows little confidence in the sector expanding and disregards Model 3 reservations.

      • Chris

        For some reason I had it in my head the leaf had sold 400k. But either way you would think they could sell a huge amount more bolts in the first year than they did leafs, because the 200 mile range will bring so many more potential customers into the fold. Plus, public charging has got infinitely better since then. I don’t see why they couldn’t sell at least 100k in a year or maybe double that if they could make enough.

        • Martin Lacey

          I agree – the Bolt should/could sell well.

          But as already stated GM are not selling to Right Hand Drive (RHD) markets and not all LHD markets either, some reports are that not all 52 states will get it. Then there is the issue of CCS charging networks in the selective markets they sell into being less developed than Chadmeo AND their insistence that they (GM) will not contribute toward the CSS network. These issues will mean selling 80k in year one a very big ask and leads me to think that this is more of a compliance exercise than a serious first to market proposition. I HOPE I AM WRONG!

          Just to repeat myself, I think many potential buyers will want to compare the Bolt and Model 3 together before making a purchasing decision.

          If I may ask an open question to any GM franchisee – Have GM set any staff training (sales, repairs etc) standards for the Bolt yet?

          • Farmer_Dave

            “If I may ask an open question to any GM franchisee – Have GM set any
            staff training (sales, repairs etc) standards for the Bolt yet?”

            The $64 question.

            Another interesting question for franchisees would be – Has GM provided specs and assistance with spares and repair capabilities?

  • Neil Livewire

    Spot on Nikki
    “They just want to turn up at a dealer, pay their money, and get a car that’s cheap to run (YES), fun to drive (YES), meets their needs (YES) and reflects their personality (je m’en fous).”
    I’m certainly looking forward to being one of those 30 – 80000 buyers when Opel France finally starts to sell them.
    I really don’t care whether it’s “connected” or “fashionable” so long as it works.
    The manufacturers should be trying to replace the old Ford Fiestas and Renault Clios, the masses of old nails that continue to pollute because they’re cheap to get hold of and cheap to run.