By on November 2, 2017

2018 Chevrolet Bolt - Image: Chevrolet

Never mind competing with EVs from other manufacturers. With each passing month, it becomes ever clearer that the all-electric Chevrolet Bolt competes directly with another General Motors stablemate: the Chevrolet Volt.

In October 2017, the Bolt — first sold last December and available nationwide since mid-summer — pushed into second place out of all plug-in vehicles sold in the United States, muscling out the Tesla Model X in the process. In doing so, it increased the sales gap between it and the range-extended Volt.

When buyers hit up a “dinosaur” legacy automaker for a green car, it seems they prefer going all the way — once-revolutionary gas generator be damned.

GM sold 2,781 Bolts in October, double the 1,362 Volts bought by U.S. consumers. The Bolt’s strongest sales month so far also edged it ahead of the Volt in year-to-date sales — 17,083, to the Volt’s 16,710 (a 9.8 percent decrease from 2016).

The Volt, which spawned a longer-ranged second generation for the 2016 model year, saw its sales drop 37.8 percent compared to October 2016. Year-over-year sales have dropped for seven consecutive months. The crossover point for both models was in July, when the Bolt’s increased availability propelled it past its dual-motor cousin.

If past Volt sales are any indication, green vehicle purchases ramp up towards the end of the calendar year. December is traditionally the Volt’s best sales month — you can thank visions of a juicy $7,500 tax credit for that.

With attention swinging from the former green showpiece to the new kid on the block, GM is more preoccupied with paring down inflated Volt inventories. At the start of October, the automaker had a 102-day supply of Volts which, combined with plummeting sales of its full-sized passenger cars, led to the decision to idle its Hamtramck assembly plant for the rest of the year. A full shutdown is scheduled for November 13th.

GM executives are no doubt smiling after hearing that Tesla has pushed back its production goals for the Bolt’s main competitor, the Model 3. With the long-anticipated Tesla slow to come off the line, and with early examples arriving as pricier Long Range models, the Bolt can wave its $37,495 MSRP and 238-mile range at would-be buyers with impunity.

Still, the Bolt’s success comes at the expense of the Volt. Speaking to Wards Auto, Buzz Smith of Classic Chevrolet in Grapevine, Texas, claims he’s seen Volt sales fall 60 percent since the Bolt’s release. It’s not just new-to-the-brand buyers kicking the tires on a Bolt.

“Some of them even timed the expiration of their Volt lease to coincide with the Bolt launch,” Smith said.

[Image: General Motors]

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34 Comments on “Let’s Go All the Way: Chevrolet Bolt Increases Its Lead Over Faltering Volt...”


  • avatar
    turbo_awd

    To me, it comes down to this: there’s “normal” seating for 5 in the Bolt. Volt is 4 for first gen and 4+1 for 2nd gen.. No contest for any family-oriented purchase.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Beat me to it. The Volt is very small inside, and the center back seat hardly qualifies as a seat. Two drivetrains take up a lot of space.

      Plus, when the Volt launched in 2011, I was critical of its dual-fuel requirement. Perhaps people simply prefer to deal with one fuel, even if they only buy gasoline once every few months.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      As I have stated numerous times before, the Volt (or at least the 2nd gen) should have been in a crossover body-style and should have been sold as a Buick (Electra).

      With the electrification of Buick, we may finally see something along those lines.

  • avatar
    DAC17

    I own a 2017 Volt, and I really like the ICE backup. It totally eliminates range anxiety, and since I take several multi-hundred mile trips each year, it eliminates the need for all the time to recharge in the middle of a trip.

    YMMV.

    • 0 avatar
      el scotto

      I do a few long distance trips during the year; D.C. to Indiana, D.C. to South Carolina. From what I understand; you’d drive until the batteries were depleted, then the ICE with its smallish gas tank would kick in. How does this all work out mileage-wise? I’m sure I’m not the only one who wonders how this all works. Thanks.

      • 0 avatar
        chuckwedin

        2017 Volt Premier here. On a full charge and full tank of gas (~10 gallons) I can typically get between 450-480 miles before stopping to refuel. This past Monday, on a 590 mile trip I only had to stop for gas about 100 miles before my destination.

      • 0 avatar
        jh26036

        The gas tank is like 9 gallons and you’ll legit get 40mpg going 75-80mph, take it down a notch doing the speed limit, you’ll get 50mpg.

    • 0 avatar
      Carlson Fan

      “I own a 2017 Volt, and I really like the ICE backup. It totally eliminates range anxiety, and since I take several multi-hundred mile trips each year, it eliminates the need for all the time to recharge in the middle of a trip.”

      Couple of weekends ago I put 400 miles on my Volt over 2 days when I Ieft town to help my dad roof his cabin up in northern rural MN. Sorry no public charging stations in those parts so forget about pretty much any EV. It meant I could leave the Tahoe parked in the garage. I got 41 MPG, which I was actually a little disappointed with, plus the usual 40 miles on electricity.

      The Volt is an amazing car but GM has failed miserably to market one of the best vehicles they’ve put on the road in a long time. I’m not sure if I’ve met anyone yet since I bought it that understands how it works.

      The biggest drawback to battery cars is not range or recharge time, it’s cold weather. The cold throws a double whammy at an EV. Reduced range coupled with trying to warm the car w/electric heat. As a MN resident I like having that ICE back-up for cold weather more than anything.

  • avatar
    tallguy130

    It just reminds me that there is no reason GM (or any established major auto maker) shouldn’t be able to swoop in and eat Tesla’s lunch. I have nearly no faith GM will but good lord they should be able too.

    • 0 avatar

      Oh, they can.

      This is why there have been so many GM Deadly Sin posts over the years.

      Because they have proven time and time again that when they put their heart into it, the results will often be best in class.

      The problem is when short-term greed gets in the way, which to varying degrees characterized most of GM from 1971-2008. Even today, it still crops up but it’s not like the GM of old.

      Simplistic I know, but there’s the Cliff’s Notes answer.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      @tallguy130:

      The big mfrs *could* eat Tesla’s lunch, but none of them are eager to lose money doing so. Such is the plight of a mfr operating in an uncertain consumer/regulatory market.

      Tesla does EVs because it wants to; others do EVs because they have to.

  • avatar
    65corvair

    The real problem with both the Volt and Bolt is that they look like Chevy’s. They need to have very unique styling.

  • avatar
    scott25

    I was going to disagree and say they looked like Hyundais but then I remembered every non-truck Chevy makes nowadays looks Korean so you’re correct. A lot of people want EVs that look normal though and the Bolt still isn’t normal enough.

    The fact the Volt or Bolt powertrain isn’t in the Equinox doesn’t make any sense. It should’ve been designed for that purpose.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    I like EVs, but I don’t like the way in which they have come about in a “false” setting.

    The Korean Bolt is a bonus for GM under the current subsidised world of EVs.

    GM has shown it might have the ability to produce EVs for the average middle class person. Even if you buy a Yaris sized vehicle for the price of a large SUV (without the subsidies). The middle class can still be mobile, in a tiny car.

  • avatar
    JMII

    The general car buying population is having a major love fest with CUVs right now so this Bolt sales make sense. While these two vehicle are actually very different in terms of power (battery vs generator) I bet the average buyer just sees the CUV shape and goes for the Bolt.

  • avatar
    01 Deville

    I think it is high time for GM to accept that Volt has proven its purpose as proof of concept and the technology needs to move to higher margin better selling vehicles.
    Given the lowering of Li ion battery prices (Thank you Tesla) the worst that GM can do is to sit on their Laurels and not bring a more refined Volt tech to their crossovers. They can start with upcoming Cadillac XT7, a plug-in hybrid tech with lofty city FE numbers will give it the differentiator it needs and create some good buzz. Also higher profit built in to the product will help absorb the cost. Other lambdas and as another poster said equinox are a must.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      $10 says the Volt is replaced by a CUV with the same powertrain.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      It has in a way – the Malibu hybrid uses the Voltec system as I understand it and gets excellent fuel economy. Does’t address the other sins of the Malibu, but that is a different issue.

      I’d be curious to know if any of the lessons from the Volt were applied to the current LaCrosse. The stop/start system is feckin’ brilliant in the new LaCrosse and the fuel economy is amazing.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      @01 Deville:

      You *do* remember the Cadillac ELR, right? It was a Volt 1.0 in a cool shape. It was a total sales dud; I think Cadillac sold about 2500 units in its entire history.

      Some argued it was overpriced; I believe it was under-powered. Paying $75k for a Caddy isn’t unheard of, but a weak 2.0L drivetrain which required a plug wasn’t appropriate for a Cadillac shopper.

      So if the Volt 2.0 drivetrain appears in an upscale GM vehicle, its performance had better match its price.

  • avatar
    PandaBear

    They started popping up everywhere around Silicon Valley, replacing Leaves when the leases expire as a replacement.

    The main attraction of Bolt over Volt is that many employers have FREE CHARGING AT WORK. So instead of getting gas once a month you can charge for free. Most of the buyers are middle aged long commuters with a minivan or SUV in the house for long trips anyways, they buy it to get on the HOV lane to save commute time (i.e. save 1 hr every day on a 2 hr commutes). This is what they can drive without worry about forgetting to charge, and Leaves range is white knuckling if they didn’t charge to full on each direction.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      I’ve ready pretty consistently that the published 238 mile range in the Bolt is conservative, and that people are consistently finding 250 to 275 miles without doing unnatural acts. Hypermilers are squeezing 300 miles out of the Bolt.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      I have a friend who had a Volt because of the free charging at work and he could just make the round trip for free. However the Bolt didn’t come around quickly enough and he has had many BMWs so he went i3 sans REX and I don’t think he has ever charged it anywhere but work yet. He leaves Fri with a full charge and more than enough range to cover his weekend needs.

      When I gave a presentation at the local Google office the parking garage had multiple rows of free chargers for employees, they took up at least 25% of the two out of 3 floors I was on and they were full. If the employer wants to foot the bill for all of your driving yeah I’d think about taking them up on that.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    It seems GM would be better served moving the Voltec system (or parts of it) into more than just the Malibu and making this the last generation Volt. The technology and lessons live on, but the vehicle has played its part.

    As batteries improve the pack can be smaller for vehicles like the Equinox, Terrain, offering a solid boost in MPGs in a 2WD configuration.

    Given the Bolt appears to be a technological success (e.g. we’ve reached a point that if there were flaws we’d be hearing about it now, they exceed published range and seem reliable) the Volt has little reason to exist as a stand alone vehicle.

    The one key advantage a Volt holds over a Bolt, i3, Model 3, etc. etc. is the ability to run on gasoline for distance driving, and a rapid turn of 5 to 10 minutes for a fillup and stretch, versus waiting for a new charge at the end of range. Despite that advantage, I doubt many drivers have that as a core requirement anymore.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      I suspect they eventually will as they wind up the Volt. However I believe they were correct in worrying about the Bolt first and foremost. They managed to be first in its range/price class and so far it seems they managed to ship it fully baked.

    • 0 avatar

      Call it the Malibu Volt.

      Also, a CUV form is a natural for the VOLTEC powertrain. The bulkiness can be absorbed by the larger vertical dimensions of a CUV.

      Agreed that this needs to surface in something Equinox-sized (like the Canadian Orlando) and also spread to Buick as more of a fastback-styled entry and to Cadillac as well.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        The margins they get at Buick, Cadillac, and especially GMC would enable them to eat the costs better too.

        A GMC Terrain that got 40 MPG combined with a 25 to 30 mile one-way electric range I think would be very interesting to buyers.

  • avatar
    brandloyalty

    Hmm, the chatterati were adamant that ev’s would fail due to range anxiety. Yet the Bolt ev is outselling the similar range-unlimited stablemate Volt. What gives?

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Because sweet, sweet electric motor torque. Why can’t they put the Voltec system in a Colorado or Silverdo?

  • avatar
    colin42

    So far I’m not seeing large incentives for the Volt. In my area it’s only $500. Not even close enough to perk my interest.

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    I still will never get why the Bolt is more popular….other than CUV!!!!!

    But lets say same form factor, I’d pick the Volt 100% of the time. Who wants range anxiety?

    And I’m a little skeptical of sales numbers on EVs. So many incentives and tax kickbacks and garbage like California HOV access and “free” work charging etc etc. This is not a natural sales market.


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