A few days ago, we did a story about how General Motors is shutting down its Orion Township production facility for longer than usual this summer. That’s where the Chevy Bolt and Chevy Sonic are manufactured. Sales of the Sonic are off 37% for the year so far and there are lots of stories on the internet about how Chevrolet is having trouble selling the Bolt. Some dealers in California are offering discounts of up to $5,000 to move the cars off their lots. The news report even mentioned a dealer in Rhode Island — Paul Masse Chevrolet — that had 200 in stock.
The Bolt story got a ton of comments, one of them from a commenter who says he got a response from someone working at the Orion Township factory, a Don Lockrey. Don sees things different from how we presented the story. Here’s his comment in full: “I work at the factory. You’re article is wrong. We added an extra week for shutdown because of slowing sales of the Sonic. I am assuming because of gas prices, as a $16k car isn’t as prized when gas is low. Another reason for the extra week was to complete bank systems and re do the assembly line to increase Bolt production.
“The jobs are all set to produce Bolts on a 2 Sonic, One Bolt mix. They are changing the mix to a 50/50 split which requires adjustments. For all the tesla fan boys, enjoy the squeaks rattles, fit and finish issues and recalls as your Model 3 was crammed into a 5000 car a week schedule. Oh, you thought your waiting list to get your car was long? Wait till you have a service issue with no dealer network.”
Thanks for that insider information, Don. We heard from other Bolt defenders who felt we were being too one-sided in our coverage of the Bolt. With Don’s information that Chevy is actually planning to increase production of the Bolt, we are attempting to correct the record and report some favorable news about the all-electric car from The General.
If there is an issue with the Bolt, it appears to be that Chevy is doing a poor job figuring out where to send the cars that have been built. Also, it must be said that manufacturers have little influence over how dealers sell their products. Decades ago, the car companies used to push the dealers around at will, even opening competing dealerships across the street in some cases to punish a dealer who had earned their displeasure.
New state laws reduced the power of the factories and made the influence of local dealer associations greater. Much of the resistance to the direct sales model preferred by Tesla comes from those same dealer associations, which wield tremendous power in some state legislatures, especially in Michigan and Texas.
I have reached out to Paul Masse Chevrolet, which is located about 20 miles away from my home. Another comment indicated they are one of the leading sellers of Chevrolet’s electric cars — the Bolt and the Volt — in America and that their inventory is down to 78 cars. That means they have moved over 100 Bolts in the past 30 days or so. Their success selling EVs resulted in a personal visit from Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors. If I am able to meet and speak with the Paul Masse people, I will share what I learn with you in a subsequent story. Stay tuned.
For an ongoing look at Chevy Bolt sales, see: “Electric Car Sales (Monthly Reports)“