Car shoppers in the seven states thus far delivering the Chevrolet Bolt EV in its ongoing nationwide rollout are seeing dealers slashing prices already.
Automotive News researched what dealers have been doing on website car listings, with many of them offering discounts off sticker prices in the $2,000 to $5,000 range.
One Chevy dealer in southern California is offering $4,439 less for a Bolt packaged with the same options as a Bolt being sold at another Chevy dealer just five miles away without the discount.
The largest EV market in the country, California is seeing a lot of this price war competition, being also the first market along with Oregon to see Bolt deliveries in December.
According to TrueCar data, consumers paid $1,400 below the sticker price nationally in January, which increased to $2,200 in February.
Fremont Chevrolet, based in that California town that’s home also to Tesla’s assembly plant, was the first to deliver Bolts in mid-December. Its discounts went up from $2,000 in February to $3,000 in March. Nearby at Dublin Chevrolet, $3,000 discounts have been seen lately on its listings. Both of these dealers have been promoting three-year lease deals at $260 a month with $3,995 down at time of delivery.
Bolt sales have been relatively strong since the December launch, but General Motors and Chevrolet are dealing with the challenge luxury carmakers face in fighting Tesla. How do you get your dealers to take it seriously and effectively market the electric car?
The closest competitor, the Tesla Model 3, will see its earliest deliveries by the fall of this year. CEO Elon Musk in the past has commented on the profit-making challenge automakers and their dealer networks have in selling electric cars that need less maintenance, which cuts into a profit center for dealers.
“It is impossible for them to explain the advantages of going electric without simultaneously undermining their traditional business,” Musk wrote in a 2012 blog post.
The Chevrolet division has no cash-back incentives for buyers, but is offering a 3.9-percent financing deal. Dealers have to decide how many Bolts they’ll be bringing into their floorplan inventories – and how much of a discount they can afford to offer.
Chevrolet has marketed the starting price at $37,495 for the Bolt LT with the Premier starting in the lower 40s. Consumers can tap into the $7,500 federal tax credit and state incentives, if offered in their state. Car shoppers in California can take $10,000 off the sticker price with the federal incentive and $2,500 California rebate.
GM had hoped to stay at $30,000 or more for the Bolt to be profitable. That would require upselling customers on performance package upgrades, but several dealers have been fixed on selling the electric cars with hefty price discounts.
GM and Chevrolet are getting the revenue by delivering the Bolts to dealers, but dealer management has to decide on the marketing strategy. The Bolt will be sitting on their lots with several other Chevy models to sell, and probably other car brands within their franchise that could take away customer interest and sales.
“If somebody’s marking them down, it’s coming out of their margin,” GM spokesman Jim Cain said. “Dealers are independent businesses, and capitalism at work tends to drive local market pricing.”
Dealers in smaller towns have been cutting costs to get consumers out there.
“We’re here to sell cars, and we’re in a smaller town, so we need to be a little bit more aggressive,” said Marty Greenwood, managing partner of Greenwood Chevrolet in Hollister, Calif. “We just watch the market and what’s going on out there. What is the magic number to move the vehicle?”
Greenwood Chevrolet is located about 100 miles south of San Francisco. This month, the business is advertising discounts of $2,000 to $3,000 on its Bolt inventory.
Chevrolet sold 2,693 Bolts from the mid-December launch through the end of February. Starting in California and Oregon, the Bolt next went over to New York and other East Coast states. The GM division hopes to have the electric car spread nationwide by September.