How High Can Sales Rise for General Motors' Electric Chevy Bolt?
Sep 6, 2017  John Rosevear

[image  / General Motors

General Motors said it delivered 2,052 Chevrolet Bolt EVs in the United
States in August. It was the best month yet for the little electric

The expectations (and hype) around Tesla's Model 3 continue to rise, and
it's likely that the Model 3's sales will eclipse the electric Chevy's
before long. But the Bolt is still the only vehicle seen as anything close
to a Tesla rival, and it has now quietly posted six consecutive months of
rising sales. 

Tesla will probably be selling tens of thousands of Model 3s a month before
long. But GM has always had much more modest ambitions for the Bolt: What's
the likely upper limit for the little electric Chevy's sales? 

The monthly sales totals keep rising for GM's Chevrolet Bolt EV. Sales of
the Bolt have risen steadily for months

Here's a look at how the Bolt's U.S. sales have fared since its launch last

Data source: General Motors' U.S. sales reports. Chart shows U.S. sales of
the Chevrolet Bolt EV by month since its introduction in December of 2016.

That sales increase has almost certainly been driven by increased
availability of the Bolt, supply rather than demand. The only dealers
certified by GM to sell the Bolt in the first few months it was on the
market were in California and Oregon. GM gradually expanded the Bolt's
availability to dealers in 21 states over the course of the spring, before
finally allowing dealers nationwide to order the Bolt as of June 1.

Of course, there's a time gap between when a dealer places an order and when
it receives a car that it can sell. The Bolts ordered in June began arriving
on dealer lots last month. That's the simple explanation for last month's
sales jump, and it suggests that we could see more incremental increases
over the next couple of months.

But given that sales of the Bolt have steadily increased as supplies on
dealer lots have increased, what's the true level of demand? Or put another
way, at what level of monthly sales will GM decide that the Bolt has been a
The real question may be, "How many can GM build?"

It's still hard to say. GM has said that production and sales of the Bolt
are going according to its plan so far. Back when the Bolt was still under
development, there were reports that GM was scaling its manufacturing to
make about 30,000 Bolts a year once it was fully ramped up. That suggests a
planned sales pace of about 2,500 a month, worldwide.

GM isn't far from that just in the United States right now. Now that GM has
begun advertising the Bolt, it seems likely that it could sell 2,500 or even
more at some point in the next few months.

How many Bolts can GM build? That's an open question, and the answer may
depend on the capabilities of GM's suppliers. 

I suspect GM could increase production somewhat above that level without too
much trouble if demand warranted. In July, it halved production of the
(gasoline-engined) Chevrolet Sonic, a small car built on the same assembly
line as the Bolt. Theoretically, at least in terms of production-line
capacity, it could double production of the Bolt without making other

That said, it's quite possible that the production abilities of GM's
suppliers will turn out to be a constraint on Bolt production in the near
term. In particular, the Bolt's batteries, powertrain, and other key systems
are supplied by LG Chem, which would almost certainly need time to scale up
its production in any significant way.

Long story short: The Bolt may already be close to sales "success"

I strongly suspect that GM will be pleased if the Bolt can sustain about
2,500 sales a month -- pleased enough to accelerate its development of more
electric models. (It may have already made that decision.) 

It's possible the Bolt's sales will never go much beyond that level. (It's
almost certain that the Model 3 will outsell it soon.) But the Bolt was
never meant to be a true Tesla competitor or a huge-selling retail product:
It's GM's way of testing the waters with a product it can use in testing or
sell to fleet customers if enough retail buyers don't materialize. (Whatever
its merits as a personal car, the Bolt is a great taxi. That's not a

The good news is that the Bolt appears to have found a (growing) niche at
retail. The better news for electric-car advocates is that the Bolt may
already be enough of a success to convince GM to bring more electric
vehicles to market. That could turn out to be good news for GM's
shareholders in time, too ...

John Rosevear owns shares of General Motors. The Motley Fool owns shares of
and recommends Tesla. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.
[© 2017 Madison]
Chevy Bolt EV outsells the Volt plug-in for two months straight
Sep 6, 2017 - The gap is likely to grow now that the Bolt EV is available
nationwide ... The Volt is billed as an extended-range hybrid vehicle. Its
battery provides for 53 miles of all-electric driving, before the gas range
extender engine kicks in and ... Good luck trying to say "The Bolt outsold
the Volt" with a cold and have anybody understand you ...
[video  flash]

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