Chevy Bolt tops sales charts in September.
John Goreham's picture

Chevy Bolt Sales Comes On Strong In September Making It The Number One Affordable EV In America

Don't count out the Chevy Bolt yet. In September it was the top-selling affordable EV in America and the number two EV overall.
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The 2019 Chevrolet Bolt battery-electric vehicle (BEV) was the top-selling affordable electric vehicle in America in September with sales of 2,125 units. For the third Quarter, Chevrolet delivered 4,830 Bolts, up from 3,949, a healthy 22% increase in sales. The Bolt's sales compared to September of 2018 are the most impressive. In September of 2018, GM delivered just 1,549 units. This sales result is more interesting due to the decrease in sales of EVs overall in America and other markets.

The Bolt is available in many U.S. markets (Including New England) for around $20K after incentives which include federal tax deductions, local rebates, and heavy dealer discounting. This combination is not unusual. Nissan Leaf BEVs, Toyota Prius Prime plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) and other EVs are costing buyers low $20Ks as well.

Despite the United Auto Workers' strike and truckers' unions refusing to deliver vehicles in honor of that strike, GM still managed gains in Q3. Overall GM was up about 6% compared to the third quarter of last year. One model that is not up is the Chevrolet Volt. General Motors discontinued the Volt despite fan and owner adoration and a strong history of sales this spring. The Volt remains the top-selling affordable EV ever sold in America.

The Toyota Prius Prime was down, the Leaf down, and the Honda Clarity down in September. Together these vehicles along with the Bolt are the entire affordable EV market in America, aside from a few very low volume models that don't maintain a 500 unit per month run rate. To say that the affordable EV is failing in America is an understatement. The Toyota Prius hybrid still outsells the top four affordable EVs combined most months.

For September, Tesla's Model 3 was down again. Dropping about 10% to just over 20K units sold. The Model 3 is the only EV in Ameria that sells in mainstream volumes. Tesla fans like to remind each other that one reason Tesla's sales rate is not as strong as last year is that it has changed its inventory allocations to include other markets. That said, a vehicle from a company based in America and built-in America declining in sales in America is never a great sign.

By contrast to electric vehicle sales, Toyota hybrid sales continue to remain strong. In September Toyota's hybrids totaled 23,339 units, up a healthy 38% over September 2018. Year to date, Toyota has delivered nearly 200,000 hybrids, up 20% over 2018's sales through October 1st.

In addition to covering green vehicle topics, John Goreham covers safety, technology, and new vehicle news at Torque News. You can follow John on Twitter at @johngoreham.

Some sales data in this story were sourced from Inside EVs.


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Comments

I am happy that Bolt sales are up. It shows that the Bolt is competitive against other EVs and gas powered cars. Tesla sales are still booming, being more than 4 times the Bolt's sales. I believe that Model 3 sales will climb even more when the Chinese Gigafactory comes online this winter, followed by additional sales of the Model Y next year. The Bolt has a mid-cycle refresh coming up, and the Chevy EUV crossover will hopefully be announced later this year with release next year. For competition, Ford should reveal their Mach E crossover soon, with models out next year. And VW should have their ID.4 EV out in the same time frame. So there is a lot to look forward to in the EV market over the next 6 months, after we push through the winter slowing in EV sales.
Tesla has an affordable EV too. It's called the Model 3 Standard Range at $35k before destination. Unfortunately no one wants it. Cheaper than the Bolt at $37k. I think the term "affordable" is irrelevant. If one is looking at EV sales, who cares if the car is expensive or not. The point is to further EV adoption with a practical product. To that Chevy Bolt is #2 but still far behind Tesla Model 3 in units sold.
Thanks, Andy. I appreciate the comment. The struggle I have as a fan of EVs and as a reporter on the topic is that we both know, you and I, that the Bolt, Leaf, and Prius Prime all cost owners around $20K to $25K after dealer discounting and incentives. That is at a minimum, 50% less money than the imaginary unicorn $36,200 Tesla Model 3 that one can special order - in person only - at a Tesla Showroom. The average cost to a consumer for a Tesla Model 3 is literally 2.5X the average cost to a consumer of a Bolt, Leaf, or a Prime. Despite this reality, I have reached out Tesla's media team. I asked them to tell me the breakdown of the trims they have sold so I can elaborate on this and include the Model 3's sold for under $37K in the affordable group sales stories I do. They opted not to respond. So I went to my local Tesla showroom in Dedham Mass. It serves 6 states I asked a Tesla employee in person how many they had sold. The employee told me "We have never seen a single one and I can't tell you how long the wait would be to get one." So you see, despite my best efforts, I cannot with any sort of meaningful effort include a car that costs 2.5 times as much in a category of cars that are affordable to the shoppers who want low-priced new EVs. What I do instead, is add a paragraph on Model 3 sales in these stories. I explain the facts and report the best sales data available for the Model 3. Which I did do in this story. Let's be fair. You are a huge Model 3 fan. You want it to be all things to all EV shoppers. One thing it is not is a vehicle that costs buyers the same magnitude of money as a Bolt. Which was the Model topic of the story.
I can see where your frustration is with Tesla as they do not disclose. Personally, I own an off the menu Tesla too... a Model 3 Long Range RWD which they only produced in late June 2019 when they pooled enough orders. In theory the Model 3 Standard range is order-able and there are ppl driving it around. but even in TMC forums, there is little to no interest in that car. I am also a huge advocate of electric cars and often the go to guy at work for these matters. I've been touting the best deal as Chevy Bolt as it is flush with Chevy incentives as a couple of coworkers want EVs but necessarily a Tesla. It just happens to today, a one of them came up to me and said he bought a Bolt over the weekend. Less than $30k before incentives, including taxes and licenses... he wouldn't give me the exact price.. but my suggestions seemed to get his brows reacting when I said high $28k. He did say about $23/24k after government and utility incentives. I've also made pricing sheets for fellow employees to determine the price of Tesla's after incentives as a couple of them waiting for their Clarity EV and i3 and Toyota leases to expire. None of them are interested in Model 3 SR. Everybody wants a SR+ or higher trim. Getting to my point, when calling Chevy Bolt an affordable electric car, it should be mentioned that the walkaway price of a Bolt is at least $37k minus the $6k that Chevy incentive. Now if you say the $31k Bolt is affordable vs. a $36.2k Model 3 SR, I will wholeheartedly agree on that but without any numbers, I'll just rebut and say the Model 3 SR is $35k before destination vs $37k Bolt. Saying that the Chevy Bolt can be out the door under $30k makes a even stronger argument. Without that disclaimer of significant discounts on the Bolt, on paper the $37k Bolt is more expensive than the unicorn $36.2k Model 3 SR which no one seems to want to buy anyways. Actually the most affordable EV is the lease only Clarity EV with $199 a month leases with $1799 down in California... and there are lots of these driving around with their cheap leases. It does carry a $36.2k sticker for residual purposes, but still fails the 500 unit minimum bar.
I agree that the "affordable" qualifier is not really applicable here. Even the regular Standard Range Plus Model 3 is under $40K before tax credits. My friends just bought a Hyundai Kona EV, and they paid $43K before rebates, which is comparable. Most buyers are not going to quibble about price if the difference is under $5K and the value is there. Interestingly, the Chinese gigafactory is supposed to start producing Model 3s in a couple weeks time for the Asia region, which will help free up U.S. production.
The Model 3s consideration as being an affordable car is not based solely on the special lowest price model alone. Different states have different discounts and subsidies. The MSRP of the Leaf Plus, Hyundai/kia EVs, Bolt and other similar EVs all start at about the same $39K as the Model 3 Standard Range Plus. Some of them have extra features included at that price, and that Model 3 has some extra features included as well. Right now, the average new car price in the U.S. is $37,590. And that qualifies the Tesla Model 3 as affordable to most people, being right in the middle price-wise. Especially when you consider the operating and maintenance costs of the Model 3 compared to gas cars that are cheaper to buy initially. In California, that explains why it is the third best selling new car, and the 6th best selling car in the U.S. this quarter.
Is "Affordable housing" in a given area priced at the average for that region? Do buyers on a budget really care what the list price is? This was a positive story about an electric vehicle that has been sold in ZEV states for ~ $20K after incentives for a long time, including up to the end of last month. The Model 3 is a great vehicle and it leads its class. But that class is not an affordable class of automobiles. And we have no evidence to suggest that Tesla has sold a meaningful number of Model 3 cars anywhere near the average. The Niro and Koina EVs are interesting vehicles, but in a story about sales, who really cares about any EV that sells under 200 units per month in a market with monthly vehicle sales of 1.4 million?
You regularly use the term affordable EV to exclude the Tesla Model 3 from EV comparisons. The average new truck in the U.S. costs $48K, does that mean that trucks are not affordable? Because over 2 million Americans who bought new pickup trucks last year would disagree with you. I used the Hyundai EV as an example because it is one of the few under $40K, long range EVs that are being sold today, and particularly because my friend actually bought one recently, so the discussion is not entirely academic. I do understand an appreciate your coverage of EVs like the Bolt, Leaf, and Prius Prime that can have a combination of incentives available in certain regions that bring their out the door prices down to the level of a gas powered Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla. But I think that seeing that Model 3 buyers are largely moving up from those same economy cars into their first EV, that you should not exclude cars like the Model 3 because it costs a few thousand more, or cars like the Hyundai/Kia EVs because they don't sell enough of them, or even the Clarity EV because it doesn't have the EV range of the others.
I have a high regard for your opinion. In fact, it has helped shape my own. So, you will note that I do include the Tesla Model 3 sales data in the story. Also, I did reach out to Tesla and ask them if they can provide some insight as to how many of the Model 3 vehicles it has delivered fall into the "under $40K transaction price" level. The company has declined to comment. So, with no data, and no proof that the Model 3 has sales in this category of any significance, it is sort of hard to include it in a story that reviews sales data. BTW - I am envious of your friend with the Kona EV. I've never seen one in person. Not even a media tester. The Niro EV remains my overall favorite car.
Thanks John. Even though we do not always agree, I do enjoy reading your articles. The current price range of the Model 3 on Tesla's website is from $39K to $56K before options and discounts. I believe that Tesla's Model 3 sales were the biggest contributing factor to the average price of an EV in the US dropping by 13.4% from last year's average price of $64,300 to $55,600 in 2019. Certainly the Chevy Bolt and Leaf also contributed to this nationwide EV price drop, but the far greater sales volume of the Model 3 likely had the greatest impact in lowering the national EV price average. My take is that affordable EVs are under $40K (before discounts). 6 years ago the MSRP on my first Volt was $40K, so I see it as real progress that we now have a variety of long range EVs that can be bought for under $40K like the Model 3, Kona, Leaf, and Bolt. My friends owned a gas powered Kia Soul, and they wanted the new Soul EV, but the Niro came out first. Unfortunately the Niro was in short supply and high demand at it's introduction, so I suggested that they look at the Hyundai Kona EV instead, and they were able to get one right away. It is a little smaller than the Niro, but it was less expensive, quicker, had a longer EV range, and my friends love the car. They could have easily gotten a Model 3 for the $44K that they paid for the Kona, but they still had the idea that Tesla's were too expensive, plus they also had a good experience with the Kia/Hyundai dealer and brand, and they liked the style and usability of the Kona, which was a lot like their Soul (which they also kept).