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GM officially gives up on nationwide launch of the Chevy Bolt EV, now commits to ‘slow’ ramp up in 2017


Since all of GM’s all-electric cars have so far been compliance cars produced only to comply with ZEV mandates, it wasn’t out-of-bounds for people to doubt them (myself included) when they announced that the Chevy Bolt EV will be available in all 50 states at launch.

It now looks like the doubt was warranted since after months of weakening their language about the launch, GM has now made it clear that only California and Oregon will get the Bolt in 2016, and the rest of the US will see a “slow flow” throughout 2017.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk himself made a rare comment about the Bolt during the special shareholders meeting yesterday. He said that GM shouldn’t be making 20,000 to 30,000 units like they are planning to, but 300,000 to 400,000 to actually “make a difference”.

Musk added that it looks like these manufacturers are only producing enough electric cars to satisfy the mandates and not one more.

GM spokeswoman Michelle Malcho told the Wall Street Journal on Thursday that only “limited quantities” will be available in 2017 in other states, but there are still deliveries planned in 2016 for California and Oregon:

“We are focusing on this year getting the cars ready for customers…and doing it the right way,”

Maybe it’s just a slip in the production timing or it’s the company walking away from a nationwide availability of the vehicle. It looks like we will not know for a while.

As I have stated in the past, with a planned production of 20,000 to 30,000 units per year, I wouldn’t be surprised if GM was able to sell all 2016-2017 Bolts in ZEV states. Therefore, I think it could be difficult, if not impossible finding the car in other markets.

It could come down to a question of cost. It was widely reported that GM never managed to make a profit on the Chevy Volt until the 2016 version of the vehicle. Some estimated a loss of thousands of the dollars on the MSRP of the Volt in all versions before ZEV credits prior to this year’s model.

If the same situation arises with the Bolt, it will be difficult for GM to deliver the car where it will not get the tens of thousands worth of ZEV credits to compensate the loss. I hope I am wrong and the Bolt will not turn out to be a compliance car for GM, but a full-fledged electric vehicle program that the company can build on.

Perhaps as economics of scale ramp up and battery prices drop, the Bolt will become a profit center for GM and something the company can build on.

But the recent comments of GM officials are not encouraging.

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