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Is the external design of the Chevy Bolt a barrier to high sales numbers? Is the branding? Even with the 238-mile range the Bolt offers?


Is The Chevy Bolt’s Design A Barrier To High Sales? “The Drive” Thinks So

Is the external design of the Chevy Bolt a barrier to high sales numbers? Is the branding? Even with the 238-mile range the Bolt offers?

Is the external design of the Chevy Bolt a barrier to high sales numbers? Is the branding? Even with the 238-mile range the Bolt offers?


In a recent piece posted by The Drive, that’s exactly the position taken — that the Chevy Bolt, despite possessing a substantial range, nice performance, and a relatively roomy interior, has some superficial faults that will stall sales somewhat.

Before highlighting some of the most interesting bits from that piece, though, I figured I should comment on an exchange I saw in a recent comment thread whereby it was claimed that the Tesla Model 3 will be considerably more expensive in practice than the Bolt EV.

Considering that the Model 3 will be starting at $35,000 and the Bolt at $37,495, and the fact that Tesla CEO Elon Musk has previously made it clear that he expects the average price after adding in options for the Model 3 to be ~$42,000, this is clearly not true. All-wheel-drive, for instance, will cost less than $5,000, Elon has previously revealed. So, what are the other options then that will take the average price up to $42,000 then? Self-driving (Autopilot) features, no doubt — which aren’t even available with the Bolt. Even presuming that the average purchase price for the Model 3 ends up higher than for the Bolt, how can you make a direct price-comparison when what’s on offer is different? (Notably, the Bolt Premier starts at $41,780.)

To be clear here, I’m hoping that the Chevy Bolt does well. It’s the first real long-range electric vehicle to hit the US market that’s not a Tesla, and it doesn’t cost more than most people make in a year. The company is to be commended. The points here, though, are:

Could the company be taking things more seriously? Is the Chevy Bolt going to be able to compete with the Tesla Model 3? If pricing on the Bolt is lowered notably after the Model 3 launch late next year, will that allow for strong sales?

With those questions in mind, here are some highlights from the recent piece from The Drive:

After an opening west coast run in the all-electric Chevrolet Bolt, I can confidently state that the substance is there. It’s the surface I’m worried about. As advertised, the Bolt can easily travel its official, EPA-affirmed distance of 238 miles on a single charge. The Chevy banishes range anxiety like an all-day Xanax. Over my three-hour test, I also observed the gasoline equivalent of 120 mpg, and that included a few energy-sucking romps to its limited top speed of 92 mph.

…The Bolt’s cool factor, frankly, hovers right around zero. Electric tech aside, there’s no sense of gotta-have, from the kitchen-appliance exterior to a cheapskate cabin that screams ‘Middle America’ like Jim Harbaugh’s WalMart khakis.

…The cabin itself, unfortunately, trends toward the subcompact basement. I bookended my Bolt drive with stints in a pair of Chevys, the plug-in hybrid Volt and a 2017 Cruze Hatchback. Both models whipped the Bolt in interior design and materials, including a Cruze Premier that starts below $24,000, compared to nearly 42 grand for the Bolt Premier.

A band of white plastic traces the dashboard, eerily similar to the glossy crap that everyone hated in the first-generation, plug-in-hybrid Volt. (At least there’s less of it in the Bolt). Worse is the wedge of plasticized coating on the passenger-side dash. It’s rendered in a painfully twee, white-diamond pattern that recalls a carrying case for Barbie’s Magic Makeup Salon.

…With limited time to see what Chevy’s electric buggy could do, I drove quite aggressively in the sere canyons north of Los Angeles — and was still on pace for 210 miles of range. Softer-pedaling journalists in our group were on track for 270 miles, easily exceeding the 238-mile estimate. My run included a half-dozen zesty 0-60 mph sprints in about 7 seconds flat, enabled by 200 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of instant-on electric torque. Some car magazines claim the Bolt reaches 60 mph in as little as 6.5 seconds, a time best achieved when the battery is 100% stuffed.

It’s an interesting piece, even if perhaps a bit exaggerated. As I haven’t driven the Bolt yet, I’ll personally reserve judgement for now. Notably, though, the 2017 Chevy Bolt did win Motor Trend’s 2017 Car of the Year award — apparently in part because of “its voters’ blind eye to its homely design,” as the article above from The Drive put it.

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James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.


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