On February 20, General Motors officially introduced the Chevy Menlo, a battery electric SUV-type vehicle with 250 miles of range and a starting price below $23,000. Great news, right? Just what the world is clamoring for right? It’s great news for people living in China, but if you live in North America or Europe? Fuhgedabowdit. No Chevy Menlo for you!
In a press release, Scott Lawson, general director of Chevrolet for SAIC-GM, enthused, “Along with being a new energy vehicle, the Chevrolet Menlo inherits Chevrolet’s sporty DNA that dates back to its founding by race car drivers. It will meet the performance and styling demands of our customers and at the same time provide the efficiency that new energy vehicle owners expect.” It seems unlikely that very many people in China (or anyplace else) are aware that Louis Chevrolet started out in the car business as a racing car driver.
GM refers to the Menlo as a “sporty looking sedan,” an odd choice of words in a world when most customers are turning their backs on sedans. The Menlo certainly looks like a compact SUV. Why not market it as such? The company goes on to describe the Menlo as having “lean muscularity with a fashionable blend of crossover and sporty coupe styling.” An effort to be all things to all people, apparently.
The Menlo is a variant of the Chevy Bolt, a car that has not been updated in the US market since its introduction. Is it a Tesla? No, but it is about half the price of a Tesla. It’s hard to believe US and European customers would not be lining up outside Chevrolet dealerships to buy one. The mind of senior management at General Motors is a dark and mysterious place.
The Menlo is not a Bolt clone, however. Where the Bolt has a 200 horsepower motor and a 66 kWh battery, the Menlo makes do with a 147 horsepower motor and a 52.5 kWh battery. Chevrolet says it uses 13.1 kWh of electricity to go 100 kilometers and has a range of 410 kilometers (254 miles) measured by the NEDC standard. Knock off about 1/3 to get a guestimate of what the EPA number would be.
Why any company today would use the largely discredited NEDC numbers when everybody knows they are inflated is another mystery. The only possible explanation is companies want to continue confusing customers deliberately, probably to address range anxiety concerns. Lying to people seems like poor marketing, however.
The Menlo has 28 storage compartments, 38 cubic feet of storage space, a panoramic sunroof, a 10.1-inch ultra thin LCD touchscreen, and an 8-inch LCD instrument panel. Safety technologies include a Bosch electronic stability program, forward collision alert, lane departure warning, and automatic parking assist. The battery can be recharged to 80% capacity in 40 minutes using a DC fast charger, the company says.
It’s hard to imagine why GM would choose not to offer the Menlo in the US market unless it simply wants to confine its product lineup in America to pickup trucks and large SUVs. Americans have shown little appetite for battery electric cars — assuming you ignore the thousands and thousands of Teslas being sold in the US every month. And that appears to be precisely what GM is doing — closing its eyes and hoping this whole EV thing is just a bad dream that will go away with time. Good luck with that, Mary Barra.