By on October 6, 2017

2017 Chevrolet Bolt and 2017 Chevrolet Volt - Images: GMIf plug-in hybrids were meant to function as a stop-gap between ICE-powered cars and fully electric cars, it may be time to consider Chevrolet gapless.

The Chevrolet Volt appeared in first-gen form in late 2010. By 2016, with the arrival of a second-generation edition, Volt sales climbed to record levels in the United States, albeit still not at the level GM originally hoped to see.

The Volt was and is a plug-in hybrid, an electric car with a range-extending gas-powered engine.

But with nationwide availability of the Chevrolet Bolt — change that V to a B for pure electricity — we’re now watching as Chevrolet Volt sales tumble. It turns out General Motors now has far more U.S. demand for its electric car than its ICE-accompanying electric car. 

We noticed this switch first in July. Volt sales had risen 12 percent beyond 2016’s record high through the first-half of 2017, but then July’s Volt volume plunged 37 percent to only 1,518 units, a 17-month low.

July marked the first occasion in which the Bolt outsold the Volt, boosted by greater availability across much of America. With nationwide availability in August, Bolt sales increased further, rising to 2,107 units while Volt volume took another big hit. August Volt sales were down 31 percent, year-over-year, to 1,445 units.

September cemented the trend, however. Volt volume continued to crumble, sliding 29 percent to 1,453 sales, while the Bolt jumped to its highest monthly total since arriving at dealers last December. General Motors reported 2,632 U.S. Bolt sales in America in September, or 81-percent more Bolts than Volts.Volt vs. Bolt U.S. sales chart 2017 - Image: The Truth About CarsWith rising Bolt sales and sliding Volt sales come rising Volt inventories. Heading into September, Automotive News said GM had a 97-day supply of Volts, or roughly 5,200 cars. According to Cars.com, there are still over 5,000 Volts in stock at U.S. dealers. That’s about 9-percent more inventory than the Bolt for a car that’s now selling far less often.

The Bolt, of course, is only one of the Volt’s issues. At this point in 2016 Toyota was still in between Prius plug-ins. With the Prius Prime fully onstream now, Chevrolet is also about to lose its plug-in hybrid sales crown, as well. The Volt outsold the Prius Prime by more than 1,200 units in the first-half of 2017 but in Q3 trailed the Toyota by nearly 1,000 sales.

[Images: GM; Chart: The Truth About Cars]

Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and Autofocus.ca and the founder and former editor of GoodCarBadCar.net. Follow on Twitter @timcaincars and Instagram.

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45 Comments on “The Chevrolet Bolt Is Now Far More Popular Than the Chevrolet Volt...”


  • avatar
    silentsod

    I’m really glad to see the Bolt succeeding so far in the market. If it had been available when I bought my wife her Mazda 3 I may well have ended up in the subcompact instead. Cheaper to run and comparatively little maintenance; not that anything but oil changes have occurred in 12k miles.

    That GM is still being poo-pooed in the media despite efforts like this is unfortunate (Cadillac and Buick notwithstanding).

  • avatar
    dal20402

    Plug-in hybrids are nice for their flexibility, but they’re inherently compromised as cars by having two powertrains. It makes them heavy, complex, and difficult to package. And you can see all of that in the Volt. By contrast, a pure battery electric can be brilliantly packaged — as the Bolt is — because you can make the battery any shape you want, and it’s very simple mechanically.

    There are only two issues with BEVs that limit their wide adoption. The most significant is that batteries remain too expensive. When a 300-mile battery can be produced for the same cost as a modern ICE and transmission combo, that problem will be solved. The second issue is that the industry can’t agree on one Level 3 charging standard. Once it does, Level 3 chargers will start popping up in a lot more places. With the ability to get ~50 miles of range in 15 minutes almost anywhere, range anxiety will be much less of a thing.

    ICEs will always be the right tool for certain jobs, but with cheaper batteries and one Level 3 standard they could become a niche product just like EVs have been to date.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      I’m starting to see more and more dual head chargers. It seems to be the norm now. Doesn’t seem to be a big issue anymore.

      Speaking of chargers, check out these Shell chargers:
      https://insideevs.com/shells-first-ev-charging-stations/

      • 0 avatar

        The dual head chargers seem very common here in the northeast. CCS seems to be the one with the most traction at the moment. I believe the VW chargers (200 across major routes) will be CCS or dual head.

    • 0 avatar
      Wheatridger

      Added weight isn’t such a bad thing when your hybrid is recovering a high percentage of kinetic energy at every stop. I’ve driven umpteen oodles of miles on the “free energy” of regeneration. And you’d be surprised at the “big-car ride” I get from my 3800-lb. plug in hybrid hatchback.

      A lighter car may be better for acceleration and cornering at the track, but I’ll favor comfort and safety on the road, instead.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      nothing is stopping Tesla from submitting the Supercharger tech to the SAE for proposal as standard.

      • 0 avatar
        th009

        Just because something is an SAE standard doesn’t mean it will be widely adopted. In this case, Tesla’s licensing requirements would likely preclude wide adoption.

        • 0 avatar
          JimZ

          what *are* their licensing requirements? ‘cos Tesla fans made a lot of noise about how they were “opening up their patents to anyone” yet they’d impose usurious licensing fees on this?

          and no, you’re right that SAE doesn’t guarantee adoption but having a standards body behind it does help.

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    It remains to be seen if EVs are cheaper to maintain in the long run. Elements of the drive train are simpler, however there are many electronic components in the battery management system, motor controller and infotainment systems. Battery cells can also fail. Component and cell failures will require replacement of entire modules, which will not be cheap.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      So ICE cars don’t have electronic components, engine controllers, or infotainment systems? Learn something new every day.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        There is a bit of difference between high-current electronic components and low-current electronic components.

        I like that EV enthusiasts like to forget that electric cars have all the same “car crap” other than the oily bits that are the things that actually cause headaches as a car ages, like HVAC, suspension, window regulators, power accessories, etc. Most even have coolant pumps. In I don’t want to think about how many miles over 30+ years, I have never had a lubricated part failure in a car, even those with over 300K miles on them, with the exception of a broken crank caused by a previous owner bolting the flywheel on with the wrong bolts when the transmission was upgraded. Engine maintenance disappears into the rounding error of keeping a car long term.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Suggestion – flip the graphic 180 degrees – I found it confusing showing the most recent data at the bottom, and not at the top.

  • avatar
    brettc

    I think the Volt being a lift-back doesn’t help it either. The Bolt might be electric only, but it has decent range (except for long trips) and you can open the hatch and fit awkward/bulky items in it much easier than a sedan.

    I bet if GM had an SUV with the Volt’s propulsion system, it might be doing okay.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Close to your point – the Bolt is more roomy inside; the Volt is very small.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      brettc,
      The Bolt isn’t a US designed vehicle. Its Korean with a Euro flavour.

      A couple years ago at the Paris Auto Show, Opel had a Bolt claiming Opel had input into the Bolt.

      I think the Bolt is slated to appeal to others as well as the US.

    • 0 avatar
      Carlson Fan

      “I bet if GM had an SUV with the Volt’s propulsion system, it might be doing okay.”

      Right on! – Still haven’t figured out why GM hasn’t put the Voltec drivetrain in a CUV, seems like a no-brainer too me.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      Agreed 100% @brettc

      Something Trax/Encore sized (or a bit bigger) built on the Voltec platform. I’m guessing weight and aerodynamics hurts the MPGs and value prop.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    The reason they were giving Volts away on lease for years is because it was not popular. So the Bolt is just slightly above not popular? Time for shots to celebrate! We can toast to Agenda 21.

    For contrast, Prius sold 136K units in 2016, and has sold roughly 83K units this year.

    http://carsalesbase.com/us-car-sales-data/toyota/toyota-prius/

    • 0 avatar

      True but 2,600 bolts is actually above GM’s target of 2k a month as I recall so they really are cheering.

      • 0 avatar

        Sale of both cars are awful. Together they are GM’s slowest selling carline. Why can’t GM simply buy cars people want to buy. That is what Toyota, Honda, and Nissan do.

        GM sucks…………

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      How many Bolts do you think GM would sell if, ignoring subsidies that may apply differently depending on a buyer’s situation, the Bolt were priced identically to a Trax of equal spec?

      I think the answer is “a lot.” Currently there is a five-figure premium, and despite that they’re selling combined Bolt/Volt at a pace of nearly 50,000/year.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I would think a cheaper vehicle would then appeal to more, especially those who shop mostly (or solely) on price. But even at exactly Prius pricing, does it beat Prius? I say not.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          If only the Prius weren’t a total embarrassment to be seen in, I’d agree with you.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          At exactly Prius pricing, I think a well-packaged 200+ mile BEV stomps all over the Prius. Much of the audience that likes Priuses is also an audience that is well suited for BEV usage.

          So far, though, that BEV is $12-$14k more than a Prius.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I would add, such products tend to sell better during oil spikes and less so in a reasonable oil environment as we sort of are in now.

    • 0 avatar
      ttacgreg

      Hmmm, just did a cursory search for Agenda 21. Sounds good to me, it is a voluntary initiative, and now I know what my Alex Jone / Breitbart Trump supporting room mate is referring to when he ends every political discussion with basically the angry same chant: “It’s the globalists, the cabal, the chem trails, Agenda 21, the deep state, the Rothchilds, social engineering, pedophilia, flouride in the water, Mrs Obama is a man” . . . . . . . . . Lions and tigers and bears!!!!! OH MY!
      He makes my head explode at times, but I like experiencing what a true blue Trump supporter believes in and sees things.

      Damn, the USA is truly in very deep feces at this time.

      • 0 avatar
        Hummer

        Agenda 21 was prominently displayed on the UN website up until 4-5 years ago with a complete outline of its intended effect. It was removed when conservative media started poking at it and pointing out the Hitler-esque goals. Honestly if you’ve paid attention to what’s been happening for the last 30 years nothing in it was really surprising. If your proficient with a Tor search or know how to search the web without Google manipulating your results I’m sure you could find someone who saved the entire webpage.
        I’m pretty sure they replaced it with some unicorn farts and butterflies but look for the original.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Some of that is probably true but it doesn’t matter. The simple truth is this, cities keep growing and the citizens of said cities keep getting priced out of living there. This trend will continue simply because it is easier to control a large amount of people in a smaller space than being spread out over a larger one. The limited range EV works well in this situation, perfect for short transport in the urban and suburban range while emitting little to zero local pollution (larger pollution from far away plants and vehicle disposal is another matter). Since the EV is truly electric it would also be easy to remotely control the vehicle and perhaps seize control of the battery to purposely limit range. One may be able to jury rig an ICE to run, try that in an all electric and computerized EV. Act up? We disable your transportation. Your future is Demolition Man minus the safety foam, and that’s not crackpot talk.

        The limits of debate are established in this country before the debate even begins. Everybody else is marginalized, made to seem like Communists or some other disloyal person. Kook, there’s a word! Now it’s conspiracy. They’ve made that something that can’t even be entertained for a minute – that powerful people might get together and have a plan? Doesn’t happen! You’re a kook, you’re a conspiracy buff! – George Carlin

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    I am ALWAYS skeptical with EV sales numbers,because their demand is skewed by tax incentives, HOV lane incentives etc.

    Does the Bolt qualify for more tax incentive than the Volt? In places like California is the Volt still eligible for the HOV stickers?

    Lastly I agree with the poster above, my gut says that a Bolt body with Volt power train would sell far far better. A compact sedan is already kryptonite these days. Then toss in higher cost for volt.

    Everyone wants SUV or something that looks like one. If it isn’t incentives, then it has to be that the Bolt is “more useful” than a volt. I find a Volt-like power train far far more appealing than pure electric. I can’t be the only one. Unless these are all 2nd or 3rd cars for the buyers.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      I’m about a decade out from retirement age, and both of my vehicles are at least a decade old. I feel I have to be very careful with whatever I replace them with. I’m trying to read the “tea leaves” to see where BEVs are headed, but the situation seems a bit cloudy. I think that a BEV is the simplest solution, but of course, range is always an issue. It’s always like this when new technology is being implemented.

      I’ve toyed with the idea of buying a Volt, as it would behave like a regular ICE car when the juice runs out. To that end, I’ve spoken to numerous Volt owners and lately several who are used Volt owners. They’re generally very happy with their choice, especially the folks who bought used.

      To that end, I’ve been getting the wife used to the idea about purchasing a used Volt as some of them are quite inexpensive (relative to new ones) and on par with many used ICE-only cars. I have 220V power in my garage, so no problem getting a level 2 charger and using that capability. Our kids are grown, we rarely have passengers in our car, so the occasional back seat passenger isn’t an issue. I miss liftback/hatchback cars and the functionality they have. We’ll see how I finish out the year (my bonus is due in November), maybe in 2018 I’ll be going partly electric…

  • avatar
    Wheatridger

    I can’t understand this preference. WhenI faced this choice recently, I preferred to get more for my money- a car with two power sources, each used when most appropriate, that could run clean and silent on short trips and go anywhere on gas. I wasn’t looking for limitations, or range anxiety– I have enough anxieties already.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      I can’t see how hauling a gas engine around is any different than hauling a bigger than you need daily battery around. Other than the gas engine is a whole lot more useful. I really like the BMW i3 solution – a tiny range extender motor that is just enough to let you go highway speed when you are out of juice. Shame it had to be so gimped due to US regs.

      • 0 avatar
        Gingerbaker

        The Volt does not have a gas “engine”. It has a gas generator. When you are using gas, it is still a hybrid electric system, which is why it gets ~ 42 mpg instead of 29 mpg like the Cruze.

  • avatar
    Wheatridger

    Another intrinsic problem with pure EVs- That vision of making long-distance EV journeys in the glorious future, where you zoom down the highway for 200 or 300 miles, then stop at a super-high-rate charger for a quick refill, that might be a mirage. Everything I’ve heard about good battery management for Lithium-ion batteries warns DON’T run them down to empty, DON’T draw heavy current in hot conditions, and DON’T recharge them without waiting a substantial time for a cooldown. Yes, EV batteries have better self-cooling capabilities than my camera and drone batts, but those principles hold, and will probably lower the battery life of pure EVs.

  • avatar

    The Korean engineers came to GM’s rescue in producing the Bolt. GM is more interesting in profit margins than actual innovation.
    It is no wonder then people prefer the Tesla.

    GM is a disgraceful company.

  • avatar
    stingray65

    So Chevy sells about 50,000 Silverados per month and probably makes $5,000+ per sale. Volt and Bolt together are doing about 5,000 per month and likely lose GM about $5,000 per sale. Its easy to see why American consumers and GM management are so excited about vehicle electrification.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      Increased electrification of the fleet, is a trend that at least has the potential to keep getting stronger in the future. So, as one of the world’s largest automakers, GM can’t just sit and produce horsedrawn buggys, no matter how popular and profitable those are right now.

      I think GM has done really well with the Volt and Bolt. They’re selling OK, despite living in the mindshare shadow of the Prius and Tesla respectively. Most people who bought the Volt, specifically preferred it to the Prius. Which is a darned tall order, as fewer and fewer seem to prefer anything over Toyotas, in any segment where Toyota is fully committed. And who knows if, once the Model 3 is out of de facto vaporware status, it will be all that much more desirable than the Bolt.

      Then, there is that in the future, if various degrees of electric does become more important, GM has been there done that. So they’re unlikely to have to handbuild the next generation of neither Volt nor Bolt just to give the illusion of them being in production…..

  • avatar
    walleyeman57

    With GM losing an estimated $9K on every bolt I would think they are hoping the bolt does not sell like hot cakes.

  • avatar
    stevelovescars

    I was very interested in the Volt a few months ago. First, I had trouble even finding a new one to look at or drive. I live in Michigan, so possibly this isn’t the target market, but the local dealer literally had one in stock during the past few months and I think they special ordered it for a customer. So, is this an issue of demand or supply?

    Second, when I finally did see one, it was quite small inside and I decided it just wouldn’t meet my needs. This would be my primary driver in a one-car household, just me and two kids, for around town drives and longer road trips, which usually involve multi-hour drives and sports equipment. For my situation, a plug-in hybrid makes for sense than for a multi-car household adding a pure EV, but the platform just didn’t work. I think Chrysler’s Pacifica is a more interesting single-car option for a family, but they are also nearly impossible to find.

  • avatar
    bd2

    The Volt was a mistake from the beginning.

    Should have a cross-over body-style from the start and badged a Buick (so can command a pricing premium).

    There’s even an old Buick nameplate which would have been perfect – the Buick Electra.

  • avatar
    Jay Herman

    Neither are big sellers. GM has been advertising the Bolt with nothing for the Volt. Personally, I would not own a Bolt unless it were at least just a 2nd car or 3rd car. In other words, a commuter car toy. I own a Volt and enjoy using it as a commuter car for work with zero anxiety about running out of battery power. Unlike the Bolt, I can drive anywhere in the US or Canada with a car that handles really well and has good acceleration (especially on Sport mode). The downside is that the Volt is small with the Bolt only a little bigger. I’ve driven the Volt for 4 years with zero problems. I get 45 miles in the summer and 35 in the winter on battery, which then can switch seamlessly to gasoline, if needed. The new ones are over 60 miles. I have friends who have run into the limit on a Bolt – “I can’t go with you guys tonight, I’d never make it home”. When 15 minute/ 100 miles charging stations are everywhere, then all electric will be great.

  • avatar
    Cornan The Iowan

    Do people really want to sit around for 15 minutes to get their 50 miles of charge? What, then they go somewhere, maybe home and charge up a second time?

    The serial plug-in hybrid (all-electric until generator needed) is brilliant because the ICE generator lets you fill up as fast as any ICE-only car, but if you rarely use the engine, it gets very little wear and tear.

    I once heard about an “instant battery pack” concept for all-electric cars, and THAT would give you an instant full charge, but until then I’m sticking with a serial hybrid. The 2012 Volt was by far the best, jammed full of electronics features (DVD, audio hard-drive, superior navigation software) that were stripped from 2013 on.

    I’m now on my second (2015) Volt, which in spite of the crappy navigation and entertainment features still drives great and still has the cool touch controls.

    Bottom line: Until another American made car can beat the Volt for price, range and quick (complete) fill-up, it’s my choice.


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