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How Chevy Bolt Battery Electric Car Retakes U.S. Sales Lead Among Affordable EVs

Heavy discounting and slowing sales by its peers puts the Chevrolet Bolt battery electric car (BEV) back on top in the U.S. market affordable EV sales race.


The first-quarter sales numbers are now in and the Chevrolet Bolt battery electric vehicle (BEV) is once again the top-selling affordable electric vehicle in America. The Bolt's numbers are steady, and the closest rivals have not been. Thanks to sales declines in the Honda Clarity PHEV and the Toyota Prius Prime, the Bolt is once again on top in the affordable EV race.

Related Story: The $32K Kia Niro BEV Goes Head To Head With Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus - The Surprise Outcome

Chevy sold 4,316 Bolts in the first three months of 2019, almost exactly the same number that it sold last year in Q1. Toyota's Prius Prime was a close second, with slightly less than the Bolt. The Honda Clarity, our projected favorite for the top-seller through the end of 2019, has dropped off significantly. We have reached out to Honda for input on this story and our Honda contact confirmed that the Clarity's sales in Q1 were production limited, not demand limited.

Related Topic: Chevy Bolts Cost Owners Under $19K in EV Target States

Part of the Bolt's staying power may be related to pricing. Chevy dealers were offering almost $10,000 in discounts on Bolts - not to be confused with federal tax credits or state incentives - in Q1. Some dealers we researched in Massachusetts were still offering up to $7,500 in discounts. Chevrolet's federal tax credit has just dropped to only $3,750. We cannot help but think that the Bolt's sales will be impacted by that significant increase in buyers' costs.

We may be missing it, but Toyota seems to have dropped the break-out reporting of the Prime from its monthly sales report. We have reached out to Toyota for comment and confirmation. We are using our trusted source for EV sales numbers, Inside EVs for this report.

The Nissan Leaf continues to struggle. Sales were under 3,000 units in Q1. The Chevy Volt has also dropped back, having now been discontinued. New Volts were available through the end of Q1.

Related Story: Tesla Now Discounting New - Never Driven - Never Displayed Model 3 Cars

Those wondering where the "affordable" Tesla Model 3 is on our list should know that we don't consider the Model 3 affordable. Tesla seemingly lied to the public and to its buyers about price and the availability of the "$35,000" Model 3 back in February. Rather than fill the orders it promised it would, Tesla instead has employed an apparent bait and switch upsell campaign. We spoke to an employee of Tesla yesterday who told us that not a single Standard Range Model 3 had been delivered in New England thus far. After incentives, the least expensive Model 3 cars delivered to date are about 50% more expensive than Bolts, Leafs, and Prius Prime cars. If Tesla wishes to release its sales data broken down by trim, we will add it to our affordable sales tally going forward. We won't hold our breath. Tesla's apparent bait and switch polcies have resulted in angering even the Tesla-advocacy sites.

Heading into Q2 we will watch for the Honda Clarity to come back to life and for the Nissan Leaf to possibly get a bump as it longer-range trims are placed in the hands of dealers. We are also very interested to see how the new Hyundai Kona BEV and Kia Niro BEV do once their sales begin. Our suspicion is that both Hyundai and Kia will restrict production to just a handful of cars. We would love to be wrong about that.


DeanMcManis (not verified)    April 7, 2019 - 1:23AM

I am happy that Bolt sales are up. But considering that GM killed off their Volt PHEV, the sales of their only remaining EV model available to buy SHOULD go up, especially if they are now offering dealer discounts to compensate for the April 1st reduction in subsidies. Unfortunately for Chevy, many of the EV buyers who would have been buying a new Volt will now be going to PHEVs from Toyota, Honda, and Kia. But some have chosen to move to a Bolt now because (especially with dealer discounts) it still offers a competitive price overall for what you get.

Mark Booker (not verified)    April 22, 2019 - 10:05PM

Chevy Bolt is over priced and are not selling! Gm are being screwed by Trump and their own slow tech. Left in the dirt by Tesla.

DeanMcManis (not verified)    April 24, 2019 - 11:40AM

I would argue that the Bolt, Leaf, Prius Prime, Kia Niro, and Clarity are not exactly the Model 3's "peers", even though they are competition. It's like saying that the BMW 3 series is competition for Toyota Camry. You can make a decent case that there is some cross shopping, with similar features and amenities offered, but just considering the performance perspective alone, the Model 3 has no direct EV competitors out yet. None. Even the base Model 3 is significantly quicker than any other comparably priced EV out today. I am a big fan of the Chevy Bolt, and it is pretty quick, but like the other crossovers and hatchbacks in this segment, they lean more towards being cool economy commuters than being a performance coupe/sedan like the Model 3. Plus unlike the BMW 3 series, none of those other EVs offer a "M3" version with even greater acceleration, braking and handling capability. I am expecting to see just such an EV performance competitor in the next few years from Cadillac, but currently GM's only soldier in this new EV war is the Bolt.

John Goreham    April 24, 2019 - 12:11PM

In reply to by DeanMcManis (not verified)

I agree 100%. My bad. I did not mean to cast the Bolt as a peer to the Model 3. That's why I separated out the Model 3 in its own paragraph. The Model 3 is a performance/premium car and the others in this story are all affordable vehicles. On a separate topic related to your post, I drove the Kia Niro BEV back to back with a Model 3 SR Plus on a variety of roads this month. The Niro is more fun to drive, and the exact same size as the Model 3 (Niro has more cargo volume). The Model 3 may be a bit quicker on paper, but with 291 ft-lb of torque, the Niro does not need any more performance than it has to be a very quick daily driver. I think the Model 3 does much better as a BMW 3-Series replacement that it will as an affordable car option. Time will tell. Thanks again Dean. I'd be open to collaborating on stories with you if ever interested. Your comments always inprove our stories. Reach out if interested.

DeanMcManis (not verified)    April 25, 2019 - 9:37AM

Working together on some point/counterpoint articles sounds like fun to me. Armen has my contact info. Feel free to email me.

traveler501 (not verified)    September 3, 2019 - 4:31AM

Not sure where you (author) get the chutzpah to claim that Tesla "lied" about their base Model 3, nor how you would defend pretending the Bolt is any competition for it. The base Model 3 is currently $35,400...or was your complaint that it's $400 more than promised? As for competition, Tesla makes more Model 3's in a week than GM sells in a quarter. I have no axe to grind against the Bolt (although as a Mechanical Engineer I could find fault with its design), but I do prefer truth in articles that purport to be informational.