During the Q3 earnings call this week, LG Chem vice president Kang Chang-beom told investors that his company expects Chevrolet to sell 30,000 Bolt all electric cars in 2017. LG Chem makes the batteries for the Bolt as well as many of the interior components, including the dashboard. Kang says how the Bolt performs in the market place will be a key test of whether electric cars can appeal to mainstream buyers in the US market.
While final option packages and pricing details have yet to be announced, the Bolt is expected to retail for about $39,000. After the federal tax credit is applied, the net cost of a Bolt should be around $31,500. That just happens to be very close to the average retail price of new cars and light truck in the United States at the moment.
All of which begs this question: Why so few? Seriously. Think about it. The Bolt is about the same size as the upcoming Tesla Model 3. It has about the same range as the Model 3 or perhaps a little more (238 miles versus 215 miles). It is priced within a few thousand dollars of the Model 3. And it will be available in selected markets before the end of this year.
Production of the Model 3 won’t begin until late next year, if it begins on time. Tesla says it will meet that target date but has failed to bring products to market on time several times in the past. The Model X SUV was more than 2 years late by the time production started. Then it took another 6 months for cars to start rolling off the assembly line at anything like a normal pace.
Tesla has 380,000 reservations for the Model 3 and expects to sell 400,000 of them a year right out of the chute. Why does Tesla think ten times as many people will want one of its cars as want a Chevy Bolt? The answer to that question speaks volumes about the state of the market for electric cars in America.
What makes a Tesla ten times more attractive than a Chevy? Why is the Tesla Model S outselling all other large luxury cars by a wide margin? What is it about Tesla that makes people want to open their wallets and throw money at the company? Various officials at GM have said they could sell as many as 80,000 Bolts a year — if demand is there.
Quick question. Why wouldn’t the demand be there if it is there for the Tesla Model 3? Why shouldn’t Chevrolet sell as many affordably priced electric cars as Tesla sells luxury cars? Tesls says it will sell a total of 90,000 Model S and Model X cars this year. Surely Chevrolet should be able to sell that many cars if they cost half as much, shouldn’t it? Next time I see Mary Barra, I think I will ask her for her those questions.