There’s been a lot of speculation about the Chevy Bolt in recent days, with various predictions being made about the eventual launch of the long-range electric car. While it’s perhaps hard to make solid predictions while we’re still this far out from launch, the Manager of New Product and Public Policy Communications at GM, Shad Balch, made some comments at the recent 2015 AltCar Expo in Santa Monica that may help in that regard.
The GM manager noted that the new electric vehicle (EV) was essentially being fast-tracked by the company following the positive response received at the Detroit Auto Show, and that the company was “committed” to rolling it out in all 50 states all at once at the the time of launch — the aim being for the Bolt to be a high sales volume car for the company.
“GM leadership has essentially fast-tracked this car into production. It’s very safe to assume that this car is going to be here sooner rather than later,” stated Balch. “We’ve also committed that it’s going to be a 50-state vehicle at launch. That’s to show our commitment to the technology. Our hope is that it becomes a high-volume-selling car, and that it’s not just for the coasts, it’s not just for a certain income level, but it is a long-range EV that anybody can get themselves into. … (This is) a good alternative to the luxury long-range EVs that are available now. It’s something that people can see themselves actually affording to get into. That’s the message from this car.”
With GM’s access to the federal tax credit for EVs (following 200,000 in cumulative EV sales) likely to be ending sometime around the time of the Bolt launch, there are some questions being asked about the model’s affordability, sensibly. As it stands, the Chevy Bolt is expected to retail for around $30,000 after the $7,500 federal tax credit (this is before state-based EV rebates). Presuming that the company does indeed lose access to the credit, will the Bolt be able to compete with models that are still receiving the tax credit?
Balch noted: “Well, we would sell fewer cars,” he said. “It’s pure and simple. … We need the incentives to remain. We know that they’re critical. Unlike any of the other car companies, we have data that shows that, because when the Volt first came out, it didn’t qualify for (California state) incentives. When it did qualify on top of the federal incentive with the state incentive, we sold five times as many.”
Autoblog provided some more on that:
Balch said that GM is working with regulators and policy makers to show them this data and is making the case that the incentives need to be extended and maybe expanded. Having a point-of-sale cost reduction instead of a tax rebate would help too, he said. “It’s very difficult to keep everybody up to speed and for dealers to even know what the incentives currently are. It ebbs and flows. I mean here in California, we’ve had to have our dealers get up to speed on IOUs from the state, to all of the sudden, the cash is back so we can give you a rebate check here. We need continuity. We need a consistent policy to incentivize these cars to be purchased, at the volume and at the level that will help us sell and meet (the efficiency) standards. Because what we do know, and what we’re hearing from the regulators is that they would agree that this needs to be a market-based approach.”
As noted by “Steverino” on the GM-Volt forum, though, it should be noted that access to the federal tax credit doesn’t cease immediately following the passing of the 200,000-vehicle mark. Rather, it is phased out over the course of the year following the milestone.
So, the timing of the expected phase-out as it relates to the launch of the Bolt isn’t yet clear.