CNN Business recently published an article titled “The Chevy Bolt’s huge sales prove America is craving a cheap electric car.” It caught my attention since I track auto sales, and especially electric vehicle sales, very closely. The Bolt’s 3rd quarter sales in the US were 14,709, which put it third in the EV market, only behind the Model Y and Model 3. However, despite the relatively high ranking, 14,709 sales is really not that many. That’s fewer than 60,000 a year.
So, the premise of the article, while perhaps noble and based on the Bolt’s ranking in the US market, seems mistaken in the first place. That said, admittedly, I went to our report on the top selling plugin vehicles in the world and the 20th best selling model in the first 3 quarters of 2022 is on track for ~75,000 annual sales. (That would be the Great Wall Ora Good Cat.) The 20th best selling model in September would have just over 90,000 sales if it got those results every month. (That would be the Hyundai IONIQ 5.) So, within that context, the Bolt doesn’t seem far off from being a top 20 EV globally, and there are only 5 non-Chinese EVs on that list — the Tesla Model Y, Tesla Model 3, Volkswagen ID.4, Hyundai IONIQ 5, and Kia EV6. So, if GM could lift the Bolt’s sales a bit, it could indeed reach a special group.
Also, while the Tesla Model Y is on track for ~737,000 sales in 2022 and the Model 3 is on track for ~449,000, these models top the charts by huge margin and compete with the best selling cars in the world of any powertrain. (The Tesla Model Y was the top selling automobile in the world in September.)
All in all, though, I’m disappointed by the Bolt’s relatively low sales. One more thing we can compare them to is the sales of GM’s other models. Just looking at the Chevrolet brand, above the Bolt (14,709 in Q3), you have the Blazer (17,511), the Trailblazer (17,388), the Malibu (21,630), the Colorado (24,405), the Traverse (25,388), the Tahoe (29,585), the Equinox (46,646), and of course the Silverado (117,198). That’s 8 Chevrolet models with more quarterly sales. So, no matter how you cut it, the Bolt’s sales are not “huge.” The Bolt’s sales are similar to those of the Chevrolet Express. The what? I had to look it up too, and then realized it’s that big white van Chevrolet sells.
But did I miss anything good from the CNN Business piece? Well, relative to Bolt sales up to now, GM is increasing them significantly. “Then, in April, with the battery issue resolved, and gas prices coincidentally spiking, GM restarted Bolt production. Sales took off like a Corvette Z06 in Launch Mode. The Bolt EV and its new, more SUV-like sibling the Bolt EUV had record sales in the third quarter of the year with 14,000 being delivered to customers. Sales have come back so strongly, in fact, that GM now plans to increase production from 44,000 Bolts this year to 70,000 next year.”
Indeed, 70,000 sales is a lot more than 44,000 sales, but 70,000 sales is not huge. The Chevy Bolt’s claim to fame is that it beat the Tesla Model 3 to market as the first long-range, semi-affordable electric car in the United States. There were headlines for miles about how the Bolt would be the “Tesla killer.” Tesla wouldn’t be able to survive with the competition of legacy auto at hand. As it turns out, the Tesla Model 3 had 336,865 sales globally in the first three quarters of 2022 while the Chevy Bolt had not even one-tenth that total. In the United States, where you can at least say it’s more comparable, the Bolt EV & EUV had 22,012 sales in the first three quarters of 2022 and the Model 3 had 146,800 according to our estimates.
The best comparison for the Chevy Bolt is Q3 sales in the United States. The Model 3 had more than three times as many sales — approximately 53,000 versus 14,709.
That’s not to say we don’t love the Chevy Bolt. The Chevy Bolt EUV was one of our finalists for 2022 CleanTechnica Car of the Year. One of our core writers recently bought a Bolt EUV. It’s one of the most affordable electric cars on the market and very capable of any normal owner needs. But we’d like to see sales of 300,000 a year, not 70,000 a year.
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