Tale Of Two (Very Different) Chevy Bolt Dealers: Los Angeles Vs.
Sep 30, 2017  Brooke Crothers

[images   / Brooke Crothers
Lots of 2017 Chevy Bolts at Los Angeles Chevy dealer
There was one Bolt on this dealer's lot. And two salesmen said there was no
local interest in EVs

Two Chevy dealers on either coast are a study in contrast. One sells lots of
Bolts, the other doesn't.

The problem is, the former is the exception not the rule.

In August, Chevy delivered 2,052 Bolt EVs. Tesla has stated (PDF) that it
plans to increase Model 3 production to 10,000 vehicles per week at some
point in 2018 and has (had) over 450,000 reservations.  But even if Tesla
doesn't achieve those production targets, as short sellers are betting (see
"Tesla is structurally unprofitable"), it's almost certainly going to flood
the market with more mass-market Teslas in the coming months and years as it
expands its dealer network and charging infrastructure.

Chevy dealer (Los Angeles): ready for an EV future. The Chevy dealer near my
home in northwest Los Angeles is the exception. It has a ton (typically
about 80 on its various lots) of Bolts on hand and sells as many as 50 or 60
a month. I visit this dealer regularly (which includes service for my own
Chevy Volt) and the whole dealership has been retrofitted and staffed for
the age of the electric car: it's got close to a dozen charging stations,
including DC fast charging, and most salespeople are well-versed in electric
cars. But, I repeat, this dealer is the exception not the rule.  

Chevy dealer (suburban Philadelphia): the past. I spend two months out of
the year in suburban Philadelphia, from where I just returned. The Chevy
dealer I visited in the western reaches of the Main Line (a string of towns
that run west from Philadelphia) could not have been more different. They
had one solitary Bolt on the lot (and a couple of used Volts on the used car
lot -- but no new Volts that I could see). Let me insert a parenthetical
here: I realize sales of the Bolt only began this spring or summer in many
states, including Pennsylvania. That said, we're now heading into October.
By now, that dealer could have stocked up on more Bolts if there was any

And that was my first question to the two sales people I ran into on the
lot: Is there any demand? Where are all of the Bolts? Answer: No interest
and no demand. That's the short answer. They spent the next few minutes
explaining that a day could arrive when more consumers were interested in
EVs. But they didn't say when that future would get here. Hmm...It's almost
2018. We're already in the EV future.

Let me add that this suburban Philadelphia Chevy dealer's lot was, of
course, crowded with every other ICE (internal combustion engine) Chevy
under the sun, including best-selling Chevy pickups, SUVs, and sedans. But
even 2017 Sparks and Sonics (hardly big sellers) were well represented,
despite the lack of Bolts and Volts.

Dearth of advertising: You can't just preach to the choir through targeted
Internet Chevy Bolt ads (most buyers of EVs have already done gobs of
research on the Web). You've got to expose the general American public
living in outlying areas to EVs, otherwise they just dismiss it as an
automotive oddity and dealer salespeople will ignore it. I've never seen any
national TV advertising for the Bolt. I'm sure GM believes it has valid
reasons for not pushing the Bolt in high-profile national TV ad campaigns,
but I don't get it (I've asked GM this question many times in the past). If
GM is not going to push a great groundbreaking car like the Bolt (easily one
of GM's best cars and one of the best EVs on the planet right now) in
national ads at a time when it has the affordable 200-plus-mile-range-market
almost completely to itself, how serious -- relative to its stable of ICE
cars -- is it about selling EVs?

GM is an ICE vehicle manufacturer: GM CEO Mary Barra talks a great EV game
(and GM PR of course will say all the right things) but it rings hollow when
you walk onto a GM dealer lot with a sea of ICE vehicles and no EVs in
sight. And I wonder if most GM dealers across the country see EVs as little
more than a tiny, uninteresting niche market. I'll check back with that
suburban Philadelphia Chevy dealer in six months and see if the future has
arrived. But I kinda doubt it.

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