Chevrolet Bolt EV Leads All in August Plug-in Electrified Car Sales

Just in time for Chevrolet’s announcement that it’s available nationwide, the Bolt EV has finished a sales month ahead of every other plug-in electrified vehicle sold in the U.S.

At least, it probably did assuming Tesla Model S sales estimated just 7 units less than the Bolt’s 2,107 August sales is accurate.

Chevrolet’s all-electric front-wheel-driver otherwise did well compared to 1,820 Toyota Prius Prime sales, 1,700 Model X sales, and 1,445 units of its gas-electric sibling, the Chevy Volt.

One might expect this result from the Bolt and even more, given its on-paper credentials are what they are. Last month Consumer Reports – which has more-often under-rated cars’ mpg and range potential in its tougher-than-EPA tests – said it’s good for an honest-to-goodness 250 miles range, and the five-seater after $7,500 federal tax credit can be had for under $30,000.

This year the Bolt’s sales have climbed as availability has climbed, and the last two months of July and August were progressively its best sales months so far.

Chevrolet Bolt EVs lined up at a media program at Babcock Ranch, Friday, July 21, 2017 on Florida’s Gulf Coast. (Photo by Mark Elias for Chevrolet)

Chevrolet is not running an aggressive nationwide advertising campaign for the EV though, and given Tesla is still selling its cars in higher volume for 2-4 times the money (without advertising either), one might say the Bolt is performing below its potential.

Nor would this be a new thing. Chevrolet has demonstrated its marketing of the Bolt and Volt to be unable to grip a mainstream audience, and the Bowtie-brand plug-in cars have elicited a lot of gawking, oohs, ahhs, and awards, but sales are another story.

This said, the five cars mentioned – the all-electric Model S, Model X, and Bolt, plus the plug-in hybrid Prius Prime and Volt – are all trading places as the top five and stand heads above numerous other plug-in cars that sell not as well.

Specifically, U.S. sales through 2017 are: Model S (14,700 estimated); Chevy Volt (13,895); Prius Prime (13,157); Model X (12,200 estimated); Bolt EV (11,670).

Next down on the sales leader list is the Nissan Leaf with 9,685 deliveries – and it’s actually doing respectably thanks in part to slashed prices and despite pent-up interest in its replacement which was just revealed yesterday. The Ford Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid is holding its own with 6,522 sales, and the C-Max Energi is too with 5,929.

BMW’s i3 has but 4,097 sales through August, less than half as much as the fifth-place Bolt which this month is the best-selling plug-in.

2018 Nissan Leaf.

The Bolt has benefitted by being newsworthy and word is trickling out despite lack of an aggressive ad campaign GM might have paid for to move its better selling trucks, SUVs and crossovers.

Does it have upside potential to break out therefore?

Not with people sandbagging their choice waiting for the next Leaf – though it will for its first year have just 150 miles range, albeit $7,500 less expensive at entry level. Tesla’s Model 3 also is creating strong interest, and is arguably the car to beat in the price segment, although initial examples are north of $40,000, not mid 30s and south of 30 as with the Bolt and Leaf which know their place in life.

Glass Ceiling

On this day, as the U.S. EPA is giving just one public meeting prior to potentially weakening 2021-2025 emission and mpg laws, and as Americans are focusing on crossovers and trucks, plug-ins are yet confined.

According to Michigan based analysts Baum and Associates, the Bolt may now continue selling within a monthly range it has now crested into despite its national availability.

“I do not think the Bolt will move much beyond a 2,000-2,500 monthly range even as it is fully available in all states,” said Alan Baum. “Production will have to increase as well as marketing, and I do not yet see an indication that will occur.”

Next year’s best seller.

Baum’s forecast projects the Bolt’s year-end sales tallying to just 19,000 units. This is yet ahead of the Leaf’s 15,000 estimated, and Nissan says the $29,990 all-new 2018 model will be available early next year. Tesla’s Model 3 which just began production is estimated to see 12,000 deliveries by December 31.

What car is projected to finish first? The Model S. Again. But, an estimated 22,700 sales are well below 2016’s 29,156. The Model X, is estimated to finish slightly up from 2016’s 18,028 with 19,000 sales.

And, the Volt and Prius Prime may hit 21,000 which all told would leave this month’s first-place Bolt tied for fourth place.

Unless something changes, that is.


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