In a recent press release, Chevrolet announced that they’re bringing the Bolt back. Details are still thin at this time, but I want to cover some background (the cancellation), what we know so far, and why they’re doing this. Long story short: this is yet another example of EVs winning over consumers, despite considerable headwinds!
Earlier this year, CleanTechnica covered the Bolt’s cancelation in several articles. Rather than cover that topic here again, I’ll briefly summarize them and point you to those other articles for further details.
My colleague Steve first covered the cancelation itself here. As a Bolt owner, I probably would have covered it first, but Steve’s quicker to the draw than I am most days, so he got it. But, as usual, he did a great job, probably a better job than I would have. He explained the history of the Bolt, both the good and the ill, and called it a “successful failure,” an assessment I agree with. Sure, there were problems with fires that probably led to the cancelation, but at the same time, it was a groundbreaking vehicle for GM that led the company to better things that are coming to fruition later this year.
Since then, Steve again reported on the possibility of a future Bolt. See, I told you he’s a quick draw! He reported not only on the rumor, but did some excellent analysis of the situation, especially how important an EV in the Bolt’s price segment is. He also pointed out that it would probably be a lot easier for GM to turn a profit on an Ultium-based version of the vehicle, making for something the company can do long term and not as a quasi-compliance car.
Even though I was slow, I did write about this myself. My big point was that it was financially necessary to end the BEV II platform (the one that underpins the Bolt and Bolt EUV) and replace its production space with Ultium manufacturing. But, GM also can’t just abandon the $25,000–$35,000 market segment and only produce expensive EVs that people with higher than average incomes can afford. That would both be bad for the company and bad for the EV transition.
So, it was somewhat inevitable that GM would re-enter that segment, but it was far from sure that GM would do this under the Bolt nameplate.
GM’s Bringing The Bolt Back
In a recent conference call, GM CEO Mary Barra announced the return of the Bolt, and gave some details.
“Our customers love today’s Bolt. It has been delivering record sales and some of the highest customer satisfaction and loyalty scores in the industry,” said Barra. “It’s also an important source of conquest sales for the company and for Chevrolet.”
She went on to say that they’re going to be able to get to production fairly quickly. The plan is to update the vehicle with Ultium and Ultifi technologies, meaning better batteries, charging speeds, and software. But, what exactly “update the vehicle” means is still open to speculation. They could adapt the existing BEV II tooling to accept Ultium battery modules, making for a fast trip to production, but they might decide to go all-in on Ultium and have to redesign most of the vehicle. It’s unclear what’s going on there, but I’ll let you know what GM says about that when they get back to me.
If you’re a Tesla fan who likes to laugh at the expense of GM, this move might seem odd. After all, the Bolt sucks, and it was a fire hazard, right? But, only focusing on the negative means you’d miss out on the positive side of the Bolt and the love people still have for its nameplate.
From a dollars and cents perspective, it’s a valuable brand for GM’s EV future. First off, despite the fire recall, sales for the Bolt and Bolt EUV were a lot stronger than expected for GM in 2022–2023. The price drop must’ve had a lot to do with this, but at the same time, if all public perception was that of Tesla Twitter (or X, or whatever Elon Musk wants it to identify as these days), there’s no price at which those record sales could have occurred.
In other words, the car’s reputation was strong enough to weather the recall storm and come out swinging. GM says 80% of Bolt owners stuck with Chevrolet for their next vehicle, and 70% of Bolt owners ditched another brand to buy their Bolt. So, it’s clearly a car that can help GM get serious EV sales in the future.
I know some will still find all of this strange and improbable, but as a Bolt owner myself, I think I can offer perspective on why the Bolt brand has created some real value for itself.
First of all, it was affordable. Not everyone has $40,000+ (sometimes a lot of +) to buy a car. So, the other options out there are just not within reach. The only alternatives in that price range in prior years were something like the Nissan LEAF, a car that tends to overheat on road trips, along with some plugin hybrids (which are getting pricey, too). People need a car they can actually buy, and no amount of “Just buy a Tesla, bruh!” or tax credits that don’t apply at the time of sale can overcome that.
It’s also true that not everyone wants a Tesla. Even when affordable, many people just don’t want a barren, brutalist interior. People often want things like a turn signal stalk, a few buttons for the most commonly used systems, and *GASP!* a gauge cluster display that’s in front of them while facing forward. Some of us don’t want to use a touchscreen to aim the AC vents when we could just do that with our hands like we’ve always done, and more quickly. Some of us also aren’t impressed with Elon Musk’s edgy behavior.
No offense of any kind is intended to people who like Teslas, Elon Musk, and extreme minimalism (read: cost savings that don’t get passed on to you), but you’ve got to understand that different people have different tastes and needs, and that they’re better served by other vehicles sometimes.
And charging networks? The next-gen Bolt will probably have a NACS connector. If they’re out faster than 2025, the first model year might be CCS with an available adapter for Superchargers. So, not real advantage there. Even so, my experience charging my Bolt has not been bad at all, and I’ve taken some long road trips in it.
My next EV will probably need to be something with more interior space, like the upcoming Equinox EV, but for now, I’m very happy with the Bolt. It serves my needs, it has a minimalism-to-feature balance that better suits my tastes, and most importantly of all, it’s an EV. If I could swap in an Ultium pack and get 150 kW charging, it would be almost perfect.
Featured image by Jennifer Sensiba.
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