Chevy Bolt seeks to find new breakthroughs in the BEV market

LOS ANGELES — Erik Roberts and his stepfather Bob check out a battery-electric Chevrolet Bolt outside a trendy restaurant in Venice, Calif., a neighborhood of Los Angeles. They are already EV enthusiasts: Erik is on his second Bolt and Bob says he has a Kia Niro BEV because a Bolt was not available.

“The Bolt family will be #2 behind Tesla in EV sales in 2023,” Erik Roberts (pictured below, right, with stepfather Bob) boldly predicted.

This prediction, if true, would be music to General Motors’ ears. Tesla may have cornered a big chunk of the BEV market, but traditional automakers aren’t taking the lead. They’re launching battery electric vehicles in segments that Tesla isn’t targeting and pumping marketing dollars into BEV launches, with the goal of convincing consumers that a BEV fits their lifestyle.

Alysha Webb

GM is investing more in marketing the Chevrolet Bolt than any other model except the Silverado pickup, says Shad Balch, Chevrolet communications director. Launched in 2017, GM has sold more than 103,000 units of the compact BEV through the end of 2021, including sales of the Bolt EUV, which was only available for part of 2021.

A ride and drive event – held on Venice’s Electric Avenue (picture below) – was open to passers-by and those who had pre-registered online. GM advertised it for several weeks with billboards and via social media, Balch says. By the morning of the event, more than 400 had pre-registered, although the final number of attendees was around 150. This was a unique event, held here because California is the largest BEV market. popular in the United States. Some 550,000 BEVs were sold. in the United States in 2021. California accounted for more than 40% of these sales.

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Automakers are pouring money into producing and marketing electric vehicles, betting that the technology will catch on. Their marketing strategies vary. With the Bolt, GM is targeting early vehicle buyers, Balch says. The Venice event offered the Bolt EV and Bolt EUV (Electric Utility Vehicle) for test drives.

The base price of the two models is $25,600 and $27,200, respectively. And although the federal electric vehicle tax credit has expired for 2022, GM has lowered the price of the ’23 Bolt by $6,000.

“Currently, the Chevy Bolt is the best value and most affordable electric vehicle,” says Janice Yoell, Senior Manager – Business Intelligence, Kelley Blue Book.

The Bolt is still eligible for California zero-emission vehicle tax incentives of up to $7,000 as long as the program has funding. Next year he may also be eligible for federal incentives under the Cut Inflation Act, full details of which have not been released. “The value proposition is very compelling,” says Balch.

Ford has a different strategy. For its BEV launches, Ford has targeted “key volume segments where we can make a difference to EV adoption,” says Martin Gunsberg, director of customer experience communications for Model e, the dedicated division. to the automaker’s electric vehicles. It launched the Mustang Mach-E in late 2019 and the F-150 Lightning pickup in mid-2021. “Our strategy has been to electrify our best-known nameplates,” says Gunsberg. Ford is currently the second largest seller of electric vehicles in the United States behind Tesla.

Ford will not discuss the marketing budget for its electrified vehicles. But experiential events are a key part of Ford’s marketing plan, from its Ocean-to-Ocean Mustang Mach-E campaign to standalone events for the Lightning, says Gunsberg. “One of the key proving points of these experiences was offering customers the opportunity to be driven around in our latest electric vehicles.”

GM is also using fleet sales to get consumers behind the wheel of its BEVs. GM and Hertz announced Sept. 20 that the rental giant would order up to 175,000 BEVs from GM, including Chevrolet, Buick and Cadillac passenger vehicles, and BrightDrop delivery vans.

Fleet sales are a key marketing tool for electric vehicles, says Eric Lyman, vice president ALG at JD Power. “Putting vehicles into a rental fleet could be a wonderful opportunity to educate people about electric vehicles,” he says.

The Bolt faced a life-threatening issue with battery fires beginning in 2020 that ultimately led GM to recall over 140,000 Bolts for complete battery or defective cell replacements. Chevrolet dealers had to stop selling Bolts in the summer of 2021. Sales resumed in April.

The stop-sell action likely increased the model’s resale value. It has seen little depreciation because the supply of used bolts is so limited, says KBB’s Yoell. “The few units that go on sale often command a premium and are listed near their original MSRP,” she says.

For Erik Roberts, Bolt’s recall was a godsend. He brokered a deal with GM where he pays for him to rent and drive other electric vehicles while he waits for repairs to his 2020 Bolt. He remains a Bolt fan. “If you count the beans, the Bolt is a much better value,” says Roberts.

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