Chevy Bolt Production Ramps Down While Tesla Model 3 Production Ramps Up

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Originally published by Gas2.

Production of the Chevy Bolt will be suspended by a few weeks to deal with mounting inventories. Meanwhile, the most anticipated event in the electric car world is the Tesla Model 3 party scheduled for July 28. That’s when the first 30 29 customers will receive the keys to their cars. With 400,000 reservations in hand, Tesla says it will be cranking out 5,000 Model 3 sedans a week by the end of this year.

Previously, Elon Musk said the production target was 100 vehicles in August, but a photo surfaced on the internet yesterday which shows a Model 3 with a VIN number ending in 336, which suggests production is actually ahead of schedule.

Meanwhile, over in Motown, things are not so rosy. Chevrolet says it will extend the summer shutdown of the Orion Township factory where the Chevy Bolt and Chevy Sonic are built. The company blames the extension on slow sales of the Sonic — sales are down 37% for the year as buyers flee from small sedans — but it is also selling far fewer Bolts than expected.

According to Reuters, there are now more than 6,000 unsold Bolts on hand in the US. That translates to a 111 day supply. 70 days is considered ideal. One dealer is reported to have more than 200 Bolts on its lot.

Excess inventory may be one reason why Chevy opened up orders for the Bolt to all 50 states a month early. So far, 7,592 Bolt EVs have been delivered through the end of June. A company spokesperson says, “General Motors Co has extended a shutdown at the Michigan factory that builds the new Chevrolet Bolt electric car as part of a broader effort to get control of bulging inventories of unsold vehicles in the United States.”

The US automobile industry is in the midst of a sales slowdown. Compared to 2015 and 2016, when record sales brought record profits to the industry, 2017 is shaping up to be a struggle for most brands.

The traditional car companies must be tearing their hair out about Tesla. Without spending a dollar on conventional advertising, Tesla is a media darling that gets all the buzz. But it’s put up or shut up time for Tesla. It says it will be selling 500,000 cars a year by the end of 2018, five times what it sells now. Can it do that?

That extra volume will put a strain on a company that eschews franchise dealers. It will also put a strain on Tesla’s proprietary Supercharger network of high-power charging stations and on company-owned service centers, which Tesla is ramping up quickly in anticipation of the fast growth in production.

If Tesla succeeds, it will turn the automotive market upside down. Chevy’s difficulties finding buyers for the Bolt could be an omen for other manufacturers who are rushing electric cars to market. The next 12 months could be a tumultuous time to be in the car business.

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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new."

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