The Chevy Bolt is turning out to be a sales disaster for Chevy and General Motors. Despite being a media favorite and Car of The Year award winner, the Bolt's sales are in freefall over the past three months. In the third quarter sales went off a cliff and are 41.1% lower than the same period last year. The Bolt, which had monthly sales above 3,000 units in 2017, has not had a single sales month above 2,000 units in 2018. As bad as it sounds, the year-end news could be much worse. Q4 was the Bolt's strongest quarter last year. The next set of sales comparisons could be ugly.
If other affordable electrified cars were seeing the same results it would be easy to call the Bolt's sales a market reaction. They are not. The Prius Prime was up 21% with sales over 2,000 in September. The Chevy Volt was up 23% in the past quarter. The Honda Clarity and Nissan Leaf are steadily climbing in sales. Every major player in the affordable EV market is doing well by comparison to last year. Except for the Bolt.
"Why," is the question? Let's rule out two things. First off, inventory. GM increased its Bolt production over the past half year and dealers in many areas have run advertisements (Yes, actual EV advertisements on TV and in social media) showing off the Bolts sitting on lots. Second, focus. GM is laser-focused on two things. Making trucks right now, and selling EVs in the future. Mary Barra, the CEO of GM has committed the company to an all-electric future. The Bolt is GM's newest vehicle and is all electric.
One factor that cannot be overlooked is the emergence of the Tesla Model 3 as a market-mover. The Model 3 has overtaken BMW in its own "3 Series" segment, and is one of the top-selling cars of any type, at any price in the country right now. Arguing against a Model 3 effect, the Bolt sells for between $22K and $25K in EV-target states. The Tesla Model 3 sells for about $40K in these same places. Seemingly, they are not even close to being competitors. But they may well be. Almost nobody in America buys a green car of any type. Battery-electrics sell at an even smaller rate. The interested parties may be less price-sensitive than in other car-buying segments. It is hard to ignore the correlation between Chevy's dramatic drop in sales and the Tesla Model 3's dramatic rise. Almost three years ago, Torque News predicted exactly this would happen.
The Bolt may also be seeing the shift to affordable plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) among green vehicle shoppers. Only the Model 3 has ever shown any real success as a battery-electric. Yet, almost all PHEVs continue to rise in sales. The Volt is one of those with long-term steady sales each month.
In its quarterly press release on sales results, GM didn't mention the word Bolt one time. Nor did the world's largest auto manufacturer, who has committed to an all-electric future, comment on the green vehicle market.