Living up to its promise, General Motors (NYSE:GM) delivered the first affordable fully electric vehicle with over 200 miles today. Perhaps in a move to rub it in, the Chevrolet Bolt was delivered in the same city in which electric-car maker Tesla Motors (NASDAQ:TSLA) builds its vehicles: Fremont, California.

Chevrolet Bolt. Image source: General Motors. 

Here they come

"All of the hard work that the Chevrolet team have put into designing, engineering and building the Bolt EV brings us to this truly satisfying moment of making the first deliveries to customers on-time, as planned," said GM North America president Alan Batey in a company press release announcing the first three deliveries of its Bolt, which boasts 238 miles or EPA-rated range on a single charge and an impressive $37,500 price tag. "Only Chevrolet is able to offer a vehicle like the Bolt EV," Batey boasted, "with ground-breaking technology wrapped in a modern design that is also fun-to-drive at an affordable price."

The first three deliveries went to customers in California cities Fremont, Castro Valley, and Portola Valley.

"The range and technology attracted me to the Bolt EV," said Castro Valley's Bobby Edmonds. "It's also a great-looking, roomy vehicle, and I love the fact it's from an American brand. I look forward to the longer drives I can make compared to the i3 that I owned."

Though GM is living up to its promise by beginning Bolt deliveries before the end of the year, investors should note that the vehicle will only be available in limited quantities. Beyond initial deliveries in California, Bolt deliveries will make their way to "a number of Northeast and Mid-Atlantic States including New York, Massachusetts and Virginia" this winter, General Motors said. And the vehicle will hit "additional major metro markets" during the first half of next year, with nationwide availability at "Bolt EV-certified dealerships" in mid-2017.

General Motors' reportedly plans to produce around 20,000 to 50,000 Bolt units next year.

An important milestone

While General Motors' Chevrolet Bolt is unlikely to have any meaningful impact on the company's financial results in the near future, investors still shouldn't underestimate the importance of the first Bolt deliveries. The Bolt is a notable achievement for a number of reasons, including:

  • The Bolt's 238 miles range on a single charge makes it the first electric vehicle to have comparable range to Tesla vehicles. Further, the range is higher than the 215-plus miles Tesla has promised for its upcoming $35,000 Model 3.
  • The Bolt's price is even more noteworthy; at $37,500, the vehicle has more range than the base Tesla Model S' 218 miles of EPA-rated range and costs 45% less than the luxury sedan.
  • It signals General Motors' commitment to long-range electric vehicles. With sales of long-range EVs growing at 50% annually and expected to continue growing at this rate for years to come, General Motors is dipping its toes in a promising market.
  • It shows General Motors won't let Tesla launch its Model 3 without a fight.

Model 3. Image source: Tesla Motors.

Setting apart its more ambitious vision for electric vehicle production, Tesla plans to begin delivering Model 3 during the second half of 2017 and expects to achieve volume deliveries before 2017 is over. Further, Tesla expects Model 3 will help take the company's annualized production from a build rate of 100,000 units today to 500,000 in 2018.

Of course, investors shouldn't discount General Motors' Bolt production just because the company isn't aiming for the same delivery volume as Tesla is with its Model 3. Tesla's plans remain targets while GM's Bolt is already in the hands of customers.

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