Fans of the Chevrolet Bolt have ridden a roller-coaster this year. Parent General Motors initially indicated the Bolt would go away as it switched to EVs based on its new Ultium platform, then said an all-new Bolt would return, also using that updated technology. Now, says GM, only the longer, SUV version, the Bolt EUV, will rejoin the lineup. That means buyers will have to say goodbye to the original 5-door hatchback Bolt EV, after all.
GM continues to have big plans for the EV market, despite recent announcements revealing delays in a handful of programs. But it is also rethinking the precise cadence of its eventual shift to an all-EV strategy. For one thing, as Headlight.News reported, it appears the automaker will roll out some hybrids and plug-in hybrids, after all, targeting buyers who aren’t quite ready to go all-electric.
It also appears that GM’s all-electric strategy will go all-SUV, at least if you exclude the exotic, $300,000 Cadillac Celestiq hypercar. That’s unfortunate news for fans of the Chevrolet Bolt EV who only recently appeared to get a glimmer of hope for the little hatchback’s future.
Early this year, Chevy announced that both versions of the Bolt, including the hatch and the bigger EUV crossover, would end their run around now. That really shouldn’t have come as a surprise. Both were based on GM’s first-generation long-range technology. It’s now migrating to the next-gen Ultium system which promises to deliver even longer range, better performance and lower production costs.
But then came the surprise. CEO Mary Barra revealed in August that Bolt would live on, with a complete redesigned version of the entry EV in the works.
That really shouldn’t have come as a surprise. While Bolt generated seriously negative headlines for a while as a result of a handful of battery fires, it was once again GM’s best-selling EV once the problem was resolved and the nameplate returned to U.S. showrooms.
But there was another twist to come, and it reflects the reality facing the entire U.S. auto industry: conventional passenger car designs, sedans, coupes and hatchbacks, continue to wither away as buyers shift by the millions to SUVs, CUVs and pickups.
And that’s reflected in the details that GM has confirmed, so far, for its future EV portfolio. The general direction was outlined in this apparently outdated chart shown to reporters during a Chevy event this past week. While there will be a new Bolt, it actually will adopt a crossover design that adopts what Barra is calling “the best attributes of the Bolt EUV.”
Somewhat surprisingly, the Bolt EV currently outsells the bigger EUV, but that appears to largely be a factor of pricing. GM cut the sticker on both versions earlier this year, making the Bolt family one of the cheapest ways for potential buyers to get into an EV. But the hatchback starts at $26,500 before delivery fees. The EUV comes in $1,300 higher, at a starting MSRP of $27,800.
The fact that Bolt will live on in any form highlights some of the changes underway as GM thinks through an EV program that has gotten off the ground more slowly than it originally indicated.
“Our prior portfolio plans included several newly designed vehicles in the entry level segments and a capital commitment of $5 billion over the next several years,” Barra said. “However, by leveraging the best attributes of today’s Bolt EUV, as well as Ultium platform, our software, and NACS, we will deliver an even better driving, charging, and ownership experience with a vehicle we know customers love.
“In the process,” she added, “we are saving billions in capital and engineering expenses, delivering a significantly cost improved battery pack using purchased LFP cells. We are getting to market at least two years faster. And unit cost will be substantially lower.”
What it means
There are still a number of questions concerning how GM’s revised EV strategy will shake out, especially at the low end of the market. Complicating matters, GM last month said it had ended a planned joint venture with Honda aimed at developing near entry-level EVs.
What we know is that the automaker intends to cover the bases from a price standpoint, even if its “Something for Everybody” strategy doesn’t cover all the possible EV body styles.
How it handles the low end of the market now seems likely to be different from what was shown in this chart to journalists this past week.
Anchoring the lineup
With both the Trax and Trailblazer delayed, perhaps even cancelled, the question is whether a surviving version of the Chevy Bolt will remain GM’s entry-priced model, or if it will be the Equinox EV set to come out next year. Barra previously indicated the electric Equinox will start around $30,000. But her more recent comments might suggest that the Bolt EUV, at least using LFP batteries, could continue to come in at a base price in the mid- to high-$20,000 range.
Considering the fact that the typical EV is today going for around $60,000, according to Kelley Blue Book, millions of motorists are simply priced out of the battery-electric market. Whoever can drive down prices, especially in the sub-$30,000 range, could stand to gain a significant share of buyers who eventually will trade up to more expensive product lines.