While massive pre-orders for the pending Tesla Model 3 have seemingly eclipsed the 2017 Chevy Bolt, one analyst predicts GM’s 200-plus-mile EV could sell as many cars as Tesla sells globally this year.
In an interview with Barrons, Kelly Blue Book analyst Karl Brauer estimated a broad potential range of sales for the 2017 Bolt of 30,000 to 80,000, “and the low end of that is still a win for Chevrolet,” he said.
Indeed, the best EV sales year in the U.S. where the Bolt will sell nationwide has been held so far by the Nissan Leaf in 2014 with 30,200 units, and last year second place went to the Model S with just over 25,000 U.S. sales.
General Motors will launch also a European variant badged as the Opel Ampera-e, but meanwhile Tesla’s global sales guidance this year is 80,000-90,000 comprised of the Model S and Model X. Some financial analysts, even historically bullish ones like Morgan Stanley’s Adam Jonas, are projecting this stretch goal from last year’s 52,000 will be tough.
Of the massive number of Model 3 pre-orders, Brauer also suggested the Bolt may capture an easy 10 percent of these. The Barrons article cites 325,000 Model 3 preorders which has since grown to 400,000 or so. On the low end, 10 percent of 325,000 would be 32,500 people who were lured into thinking EV with the Model 3, but who could jump ship next year to the Chevy Bolt.
The Bolt has already been proofed on a pre-assembly line run, and is due to begin series production late this year with availability to 50 states soon into the new year in 2017.
GM has been accused of building a “compliance car,” but it has adamantly resisted this and said the Bolt is “not a compliance car” and if 50,000 orders come, it will meet those.
The company has been careful not to specify actual production volume, but hedges by saying it will not run out of supply if the car proves popular.
Whether the Bolt does significantly break out of previous EV sales limits is of course anyone’s guess. Brauer’s own wide range allowing for a 50,000 unit variance between a low of 30,000 and high of 80,000 shows even one close to the issues did not pin a specific number.
According to Michigan-based automotive analyst Alan Baum, GM has historically had constraints in selling and marketing its Volt, and a pattern may carry over to adversely affect the Bolt.
Issues include 1) Chevrolet salespeople not being compensated to doing a more-complex plug-in car sale, 2) dealers being less than gung ho for plug-in cars in general, 3) Chevrolet corporate marketing being spotty or not very effective.
Baum is taking a wait-and-see attitude at this stage while projecting just 20,000 first-year Bolt sales until he sees reason for greater optimism.
Additional developments tempering Baum’s outlook include GM’s interest in working with fleets such as Lyft, etc. This will see GM providing semi-autonomous Bolt versions which suggests to Baum that the automaker is less focused on retail sales, “although they could of course do both.”
Also, the strong interest in the Model 3 exists in part because of greater consumer confidence in Tesla over GM, Baum observed, as well as the very compelling design and feature set shown in the Model 3 prototype.
At the same time, General Motors has very publicly said its first nationally sold EV will be supported.
Having been stung by early sales projections for the Volt in 2011 that were not met however, the automaker is not predicting how many Bolts it will sell.