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General Motors' Chevy Bolt EV Is Still Selling Well -- but Competition Is Coming

By John Rosevear – Mar 4, 2018 at 11:14AM

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Forget Tesla. It's GM's global rivals that are aiming to eat the little electric Chevy's lunch.

General Motors (GM -0.89%) said it sold 1,424 Chevrolet Bolt EVs in the United States in February. That's a 50% increase over the Bolt's year-ago sales result, but it's still well short of the sales levels we saw during the last few months of 2017.

Still, the Bolt was the second best-selling battery-electric vehicle in the United States last month. It seems likely to hang on to that title for a while longer -- but there could be some very stiff competition coming soon. 

A light blue 2018 Chevrolet Bolt EV on a country road.

Sales of the Chevrolet Bolt EV rose almost 50% in February. Image source: General Motors.

How the Bolt's sales totals compare with its rivals'

January marked the first month-over-month sales drop for the Bolt since February 2017 -- and as drops go, it was a big one. But sales began to move back up last month.

A bar chart showing U.S. sales of the Bolt by month. Sales rose steadily from early 2017 through the end of the year, then dropped off sharply in January of 2018.

Data source: General Motors. Chart shows U.S. sales of the Chevrolet Bolt EV in every month since its launch in December of 2016.

As just about everybody expected, after some delays, production of Tesla's (TSLA 0.91%) Model 3 is finally approaching levels that will be hard for the Bolt to match from now on: According to InsideEVs's estimates, Tesla delivered 2,485 Model 3s to U.S. customers in February. The Model 3's monthly totals are likely to rise significantly from there as the year goes on.

But even though sales of the Bolt are still well down from late-2017 levels, GM still sold enough to make it the second best-selling electric vehicle in the U.S in February, outpacing the other two Teslas as well as the all-new Nissan Leaf.

Vehicle Feb. 2018 U.S. Sales Change vs. Feb. 2017
Tesla Model 3 2,485 New
Chevrolet Bolt EV 1,424 49.6%
Tesla Model S 1,125 (35.7%)
Nissan Leaf 895 (13.7%)
Tesla Model X 875 9.4%
BMW i3 623 96.5%
Fiat 500e 235 (60.2%)
Volkswagen e-Golf 198 (32.4%)

Data sources: General Motors, Nissan, Volkswagen, BMW, and InsideEVs. All numbers are U.S. sales only. Figures for Tesla are InsideEVs's estimates.

Where does the Bolt go from here?

Fifteen months after its U.S. debut, the Bolt is still the longest-range electric vehicle that one can buy in the U.S. for under $40,000. But I find it interesting that GM left the Bolt essentially unchanged for the 2018 model year, because some stiff competition could be on the way.

Of note: Just this week, Hyundai (HYMTF 0.53%) unveiled an all-electric version of its new small Kona crossover SUV. While we don't yet know how Hyundai will price the Kona Electric (and we don't yet know for sure whether it'll come to the U.S.), we do know that it'll be available with up to 291 miles of range in a package that looks likely to be priced competitively with the Bolt.

A green Hyundai Kona Electric, a small crossover SUV, parked at a charging station.

Hyundai's new Kona Electric looks set to give the Bolt some serious competition -- if it comes to the United States. Image source: Hyundai.

The Bolt, of course, has an EPA-rated range of 238 miles. It also has an interior that appears to have been designed for ride-hailing duty, with seats that are rugged but not exactly plush. It's fine for a taxi, but I've heard quite a few owners say that they wish that GM had offered something nicer -- and a few folks who said they would have bought a Bolt if the seats had been better.

In contrast, the Kona Electric's interior is Hyundai-standard -- which is to say, in the more upscale trims at least, it's pretty nice. If Hyundai decides to offer the Kona Electric in the U.S., and if the reviews are good and the pricing is even close to the Bolt's, GM is going to have a fight on its hands -- unless it gives the Bolt a quick revamp, which isn't out of the question.

The dashboard and front seats of a Hyundai Kona Electric. The seats are leather-trimmed, and the interior panels are dark with chrome accents.

The Hyundai Kona Electric's interior. Doesn't this look nice, Bolt owners? Image source: Hyundai.

The upshot: The Bolt is still doing quite well, but things are moving quickly

All that said, I can't really knock GM for the Bolt's sales performance to date. GM sold over 23,000 Bolts in 2017, and two months into 2018 the Bolt's sales are up 23% over the same period a year ago. And it appears that GM hasn't yet delivered many Bolts to fleet customers. That's something that could ramp up as 2018 goes on.

But at the same time, the Bolt is clearly in the competition's sights, and GM may soon start to feel pressure to give its little electric crossover an early overhaul -- or at least a range boost. We'll see how the Bolt's sales fare as the year goes on. 

John Rosevear owns shares of General Motors. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Tesla. The Motley Fool recommends BMW. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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