GM Testing a Bolt-based Buick Crossover With Focus Groups: Report

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
gm testing a bolt based buick crossover with focus groups report

When you think about it, it all adds up. There was no way the powertrain of the Chevrolet Bolt, America’s first reasonably priced long-range electric vehicle, was ever going to remain solely the domain of one vehicle. General Motor’s CEO, Mary Barra, alluded to as much following the Bolt’s introduction.

While the 238-mile Bolt is already sold in Europe as the Opel Ampera-e, and in China as the Buick Velite 5, those vehicles don’t amount to much more than simple badge swaps. However, a new report claims U.S. buyers could see a Buick crossover based on the Bolt, and soon.

After attending a California focus group, a “trusted” source told InsideEVs that the group was presented with a Buick-badged electric crossover based on the Bolt. Participants were given a list of specifications, then asked to compare the unnamed vehicle with electrified offerings from other brands, including the Hyundai Ioniq and Kia Niro plug-in hybrid. The organizers threw the Bolt in the mix, too.

According to the source, participants were asked if the vehicle changed their perception of the Buick brand.

The mystery vehicle, which reportedly boasts styling akin to a future Buick Encore, was more than just a rebadged Bolt, albeit dimensionally similar. The front-drive vehicle carries an unchanged Bolt drivetrain, driving the front wheels only, but offers three inches more rear legroom. Inside and out, premium flourishes abound, and the vehicle’s price tag is pegged at $3,000 more than a Bolt. This would push the vehicle’s MSRP just above the $40,000 marker (before a federal tax credit).

Other notable additions to the crossover include a push-button gearshift, tall console, and large touchscreen. While range wasn’t discussed, it’s assumed the extra weight and/or drag (which lengthens the vehicle’s 0-60 time by 0.4 seconds, the source claimed) also reduces driving distance per charge.

Barra claimed the Bolt’s unique platform would go on to spawn numerous vehicles, and it’s silly to think GM would try a second in the U.S. market. Still, there’s no confirmation of a new Bolt-based Buick. Not that there won’t be ample room to built the vehicle should it receive a thumbs up.

The Bolt’s Orion, Michigan assembly plant, which previously jettisoned the declining Buick Verano sedan, now appears ready to spit out the Chevrolet Sonic, if dwindling sales numbers, ballooning inventories, and rumors of three soon-to-be-killed Chevys tell us anything. The addition of an electric Buick crossover would make Orion an EV-only plant.

Will GM pull the trigger on the greenest Buick in history? Stay tuned.

[Image: General Motors]

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  • Stingray65 Stingray65 on Aug 01, 2017

    A very expensive high technology small car does not fit with the Chevrolet image, and the Bolt and the Volt are therefore not good fits for Chevy's cheap/value portfolio. Both models should have been introduced as a Buick and/or Cadillac models with $500 worth of interior upgrades and a $3-5,000 higher price to fit an "upscale" image and come a bit closer to profitability. Let Chevy keep the cheap and cheerful Cruze and Sonic, etc and leave the image cars to the higher price brands, and only release a Chevy version when the battery costs have come down enough to support an economy price. GM just hasn't practiced good brand portfolio management since at least the 1960s, which is kind of strange since Sloan practically invented the concept.

  • Bd2 Bd2 on Aug 03, 2017

    Well, it's about time. Been saying from the start that the first Voltec model should have been a crossover and sold as a Buick (bring back the "Electra" nameplate). Even if this is only in EV form, has to be large enough to be suitable for families of a certain size.

  • SCE to AUX I'd admire it at the car cruise, but $20k gets you halfway to a new truck.
  • Lou_BC Panther black? Borrowed from Dodge panther pink? One could argue that any Camaro is a limited run.
  • SCE to AUX I much prefer the looks of the Tucson version, but either is a great value.How was the driveability, namely the electric/gas transition? I had H/K's first attempt in a 13 Optima Hybrid (now in my son's garage), and it was gruff and abrupt in that phase of driving.
  • SCE to AUX My guess of $60k from a few years ago may be low.My EPA estimate would be 263 miles, but that's unladen, temperate conditions, driven at the speed limit, and 0% left in the tank - all unrealistic.Subtract 15% for full payload, 20% for cold, 10% for speed, and 20% minimum battery level, and you're down to 129 usable miles at times. Even in nice conditions (springtime, town driving), I'd only expect 180 usable miles.This vehicle will have the same challenge as electric pickups do - when used as intended (traveling with family and stuff in this case), the utility is lost.When these hit US roads, expect to see videos of unhappy/surprised customers who thought this thing would go 260+ miles all the time. For starters, it should have a 150 kWh battery, minimum, and then you're talking real money.No, I wouldn't buy it, but it might be a fun rental for local driving.The common argument "once everyone who wants one gets one, sales will die" may not apply here. 789k New Beetles were sold in the US from 1998-2021. True, sales dropped 50% in 5 years, and another 60% in the next 5 years, but it ebbed along for two decades, helped by a refresh along the way. That's not a bad run for a niche car.
  • Theflyersfan I still have visions of Radio Shack and Circuit City and Silo - the huge walls filled with hundreds of aftermarket cassette players fit for any budget and style. And the eyes would always go to the Alpine ones with the green lighting. When I see the old Japanese cars like this, I'm always reminded of those aftermarket stereos because it was like a rite of passage slapping in your own cassette deck and maybe if your rich enough, four new speakers, and mega-bucks here, the equalizer and amp. And this Toyota still has less rust on it than an 07 Silverado, so there's one positive.