Why the Chevrolet Bolt Won't Wear a Union Jack Anytime Soon

why the chevrolet bolt wont wear a union jack anytime soon

The United Kingdom isn’t scared of electric vehicles, what with their high fuel prices and limited driving distances (when compared to the U.S.).

However, General Motors has developed a serious case of cold feet on the issue of launching a Vauxhall-branded Chevrolet Bolt, which could prove a decent sales performer. An all-electric range of 238 miles is impressive, so why is the General so shy?

According to Automotive News Europe, GM feels burned by the public’s failure to make the Vauxhall Ampera (a right-hand-drive version of the first-generation Chevrolet Volt) a sales success.

Sold under the British Vauxhall brand in the UK and Opel in continental Europe, the Ampera was a dud. In its best year, GM never sold more than 5,300 of them on the other side of the Atlantic, despite predicting sales twice that high.

The Bolt, due to reach U.S. dealers in limited numbers this December, goes on sale as the Opel Ampera-e in mainland Europe. While the first-generation Volt was designed with right-hand drive in mind, the new Bolt is a much more American affair. Switching the steering wheel to the starboard side is a financial gamble GM doesn’t want to take — at least, not just yet.

“It’s a more cautious approach,” a Opel brand spokesperson told ANE. “If you don’t want to lose too much money, we prefer not to make right-hand-drive yet. The decision was partly financial.”

Suddenly cautious, GM will play the waiting game to see how the Ampera-e performs in the rest of Europe. Since the launch of the original Ampera, the idea of an electric car has grown more familiar. Electric recharging infrastructure has proliferated, and continental automakers are eager to build EVs to fight Tesla on their home turf. EV sales, though still limited, are up 9.2 percent in August, year-over-year, according to UK industry association SMMT.

European regulators rate the Ampera-e’s range at 249 miles, or 400 kilometers. That places the northern England cities of Sheffield, Manchester and Liverpool within driving range of London.

Perhaps tellingly, GM hasn’t released sales projections for the Ampera-e.

[Image: General Motors]

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  • Johnster Johnster on Sep 15, 2016

    The first generation Volt/Ampera was ugly and doomed to fail for that reason! In contrast, the second-generation Volt/Ampera is reasonably attractive, although it has a very strong resemblance to the Chevy Cruze on which it is based. GM UK (Vauxhall) is being short-sighted in not bringing in the Bolt.

  • HotPotato HotPotato on Sep 16, 2016

    The UK in general and London in particular have good incentives to get people into electric cars, including up to 5000 pounds (~$6700) up-front toward purchase, no VED vehicle tax, exemption from congestion charges, free or reduced price parking in many boroughs, grants of up to 75% to install a home charge point, and the Source London network of 1400 charge points. The countryside is trickier as infrastructure is thinner, but let's be honest, the UK's not THAT big, and unless you're on an M road, you can't go very fast. I just spent several days driving the length of the Welsh coastline and then over into England in a Nissan Qashqai. Like most regular-people Euro/UK cars, it was a diesel with modest acceleration but very impressive MPG--nevertheless, the price of motor fuel made fill-ups painful. Would drivers find it cheaper to run on electrons? Would drivers enjoy doing 0-60 in 6.5 seconds rather than 14? I imagine the answer is "yes." What's more, the Bolt's tidy width and extremely strong merging acceleration would suit the country's narrow roadways and short merging lanes, and its nimble handling and quasi-CUV shape would suit UK buyer preferences. So what's the problem? By sticking with right-hand drive in a mostly left-hand drive world, the UK has ensured it will get cool cars from abroad last, if at all.

    • See 1 previous
    • HotPotato HotPotato on Sep 16, 2016

      @RobertRyan There's something comforting about seeing loads of gas stations even when you don't need one, because *just in case you did*... So yes, I'd feel uncomfortable road-tripping through areas with more sheep than people, thinking that a charger might be an hour's drive away, even if rationally I knew I had ample range to get there and far beyond. I wonder what the tipping point for frequency of chargepoints is, to get over that psychological hurdle. Back in the 1920s, how many fuel stations had to spring up in a person's area before they'd consider buying their first gasoline powered vehicle? I wonder. As an Aussie you won't like this, but I still think right-hand drive/left-hand traffic is an anachronism that needlessly adds cost and complexity to export---only 10% of the world's countries use it, mostly island nations where land borders with LHD countries won't be an issue. Some say it's chosen to enhance safety because many people are right eye dominant, but archaeological excavations of double-track roadways in Swindon suggest another reason for this convention among current and former British subjects: ancient Romans in what is now England drove their chariots on that side!

  • ToolGuy If you want a new Toyota, plan to buy it in the next 4 years.
  • ToolGuy The real question is - with all the value they add and all the sacrifices they make - do automotive journalists make too little. 😉
  • SnarkyRichard Jesus I double keyed it and J showed up instead of I . No edit function and this site just disappears randomly off of Firefox taking me back to the previous site I was on . Clearly some bugs need to be worked out in this new format .
  • SnarkyRichard J have no desire to get an EV and will never get one . Just give me a manual transmission , a high redline , grippy 4 wheel disc brakes and a two lane highway to slice and dice my way through traffic . No smart phone connectivity needed , just a powerful stereo with 6x9 speakers in the rear to give the classic rock sound of American freedom on the open road . And that's all I have to say about that .
  • Gregtwelve While Sichuan managed to avoid the nationwide energy rationing witnessed in 2021, attributed to a lack of coalWe have plenty of coal. Let's sell them something for a change. And let us not forget that historically the Chinese hate the Japanese for what they did in WW2, so that might have something to do with it.