General Motors Would be Crazy to Show New EV Next to Volt


The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Chevrolet will reveal a new electric car concept with a 200-mile range on Monday morning at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. We already know for a fact that Chevrolet will show the all-new second-generation Volt at the show (check back here after 12:01am EST on Monday, January 12 for my thoughts on this car) but I personally believe that showing the new concept would be insane.

It has previously been reported that Chevrolet has registered a trademark for the name Bolt, and GM executive vice-president for global product development Mark Reuss has acknowledged that the company planning a new EV with a 200-mile range for the 2017 time frame. We’ll just stipulate Chevrolet will in fact build a 200-mile EV called the Bolt at some time in the next two to three years.

My problem is with the idea that Chevrolet would show this car alongside the new Volt. GM designers and engineers have spent the past four years and at least hundreds of millions of dollars developing a second-generation Volt. No doubt, a big part of that effort went to reducing the manufacturing and part costs in the hope of at least breaking even if not making a profit on Volt. GM will want to sell as many gen-2 Volts as possible both to recover that investment and also to boost the company’s corporate average fuel economy numbers.

We have no idea how much the new Volt will cost, but I’m guessing it’s not going to drop much below $30,000 if it drops at all. Based on the photos of camouflaged prototypes released by GM, the new car doesn’t look like it’s going by much larger or roomier than the original.

According to the WSJ report, GM is targeting a starting price of just $30,000 for the Bolt. The Bolt is also expected to be larger than the Volt. Looking at this purely from a marketing perspective, why would you show a battery electric car with perhaps three to four times as much range, more space and a potentially lower price that won’t be available for two more years next to a car that you need to sell right now?

I can certainly understand wanting to get Bolt out ahead of Tesla and their Model 3. However, given Tesla’s track record for delivering products on time (reminder, they have never delivered anything on time), GM will probably be first to market. However, there is absolutely no reason to show the car now. I would wait until at least the LA Auto Show in November after people have driven the new Volt or perhaps the 2016 Detroit Show. What customer would even consider a Volt if they new the Bolt was coming?

Whoever might have thought showing a Bolt concept now should perhaps be relegated to the same dark corner as the marketer that came up with the infamous Volt dance at the 2009 LA Auto Show.

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