Sometimes the future seems to drag its heels getting here, and sometimes – like in the case of the Chevy Bolt – it can’t get here fast enough. You may have seen reports over the weekend on the car due for production late next year?
“Your move, Elon,” said Fortune. And sure enough, Model III has been reported quite a bit without revelation yet of a prototype. Nor is it likely to matter that some stories make it sound like Bolt is a done deal prior to actual confirmation by GM. As of yesterday, the Detroit Free Press says the news on the news yet to be officially news is all this will be announced at the Chicago Auto Show.
Meanwhile, the Gigafactory is rushing into production evidenced by these photos (thanks Mark Z), and the world will soon be flush in new lithium-ion batteries! What’s more Panasonic’s CEO says Tesla could balloon vehicle production from 33,000 sales in 2014 to 500,000 in 2020.
Officially Chevrolet’s lips remain sealed but sources reportedly told Reuters an under-used facility in Orion Township, Mich. will be where Chevrolet starts annually turning out 25,000-30,000 Bolt EVs for 2017.
The apparently thinly veiled plans for the EV priced from the mid $30s before incentives with over 200-mile range was reportedly further fleshed out from an anonymous GM source.
Reuters says plans are to also develop an Opel badged version for Europe. Whether the Orion township plant will be the source for the Opel remains to be seen.
General Motors has officially not confirmed any of this, but news of the Bolt has been marked from the start by leaks that have turned out to be true.
The Bolt was supposed to have been a surprise alongside the 2016 Volt reveal Jan. 12 in Detroit, but we’re told a GM employee too high up for CEO Mary Barra to fire let the cat out of the bag a couple days early to the Wall Street Journal – or so goes that anecdote.
To us, a Volt media rep on Jan. 12 in Detroit downplayed the Bolt saying, “it’s just a concept” as though plans could very well not be in place to do more than view it as a design exercise. But the trend these days is to build concepts much closer to pre-production and an EV fitting its capabilities and price point was generally expected for the past couple of years since former CEO Dan Akerson said GM would not lose to Tesla.
Officially, present CEO Barra said last month the Bolt signals high aspirations for GM.
“The Bolt EV concept is a game-changing electric vehicle designed for attainability, not exclusivity,” said Barra. “Chevrolet believes electrification is a pillar of future transportation and needs to be affordable for a wider segment of customers.”
Along these lines, we were also told in a Detroit interview Jan. 12 with Pam Fletcher, GM’s executive chief engineer for electrified vehicles, GM does indeed have a mapped-out electrification strategy. This is something analysts and observers have questioned, noting gaping holes in product lines, a compliance Spark EV, and decisions such as launching the poorly selling Cadillac ELR.
Officially again, Barra has said GM is thinking ahead as it echoes its own tagline for the Chevy brand and seeks to find new roads.
“We have made tremendous strides in technologies that make it easier and more affordable for Chevrolet customers to integrate an all-electric vehicle in their daily lives,” said Barra. “The Bolt EV concept demonstrates General Motors’ commitment to electrification and the capabilities of our advanced EV technology.”
We asked Fletcher whether she would reveal more about GM’s roadmap to electrify select models within its product line. This not surprisingly was met with laughter, and a polite “no” by her and another media rep minding that interview.
Meanwhile, the Bolt is rumored to be a reality and due for production just as everyone paying attention has already conjectured or hinted.
The GM source in an Automotive News report posted yesterday clarified the price question for the Bolt which is intended as a Tesla Model III alternative as “in the mid-$30,000s.” This could mean in excess of $35,000 but that was not stated.
Federal and state subsidies are then expected to bring the bottom line down to $30,000 which has also been reported here and there without always clear qualification.
Assuming all this is true, the Bolt would compete with whatever Nissan intends to reveal for its second-generation Leaf, also expected to have range and price in this neighborhood. Tesla has yet to reveal a much-talked-about Model III but the target here too is in this price and range region.
The Model III would be more of a BMW 3-Series competitor, whereas the Leaf and Bolt – which looks much like the BMW i3 – would be hatch-oriented, slower, utilitarian designs.
What BMW has in store to keep its i3 relevant in the face of this pending competition remains to be seen.
The Bolt, said the two unidentified supplier sources to Reuters, would be built on the global Gamma small car platform. This will also undergird the fourth-generation Sonic, expected also in late 2016.
It will bring more high-tech recognition to still economically recovering Michigan which also produces the Volt at the Detroit-Hamtramck plant, and has other high-tech facilities and endeavors in state as well.
Whether the estimated “25,000 to 30,000” Bolt production target is conservative was not stated, but Nissan sold just over 30,000 Leafs in 2014. Undoubtedly the potential to expand production is being accounted for if needed.
Hopefully this is true, anyway, given reports say Tesla will expand its total production 1,500 percent in the next five years.
Tesla has room to grow being a niche maker, but then again, the Volt is a niche product according to GM too, right? So, if GM were to expand Voltec beyond its global sales of 21,200 Volt/Amperas and 1,310 U.S. ELRs in 2014 by 15 times, we’d see close to 340,000 Voltec vehicles by 2020 also.