General Motors CEO Mary Barra unveiled the Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicle during the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Production of the current Bolt is set to end in December, but GM has said a revamped version is on the way.
Patrick T. Fallon | Bloomberg | Getty Images
General Motors surprised investors – and EV fans – when it said in July that the little Chevrolet Bolt EV will be revamped, rather than killed off entirely at the end of 2023 as originally planned.
During GM’s earnings call on Tuesday, CEO Mary Barra shared more details around the thinking behind the decision to keep the Bolt around while giving some hints as to what Bolt fans can expect when the revamped EV goes on sale.
Barra said that GM had originally planned to launch a series of newly designed EVs in entry-level segments at a total cost of around $5 billion. But given the popularity of the current Bolt – 2023 is already the model’s best year ever for sales – it made sense to revamp the existing car instead.
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“By leveraging the best attributes of today’s Bolt EV as well as Ultium, our latest software, and NACS, we will deliver an even better driving charging and ownership experience with a vehicle we know customers love,” Barra said. “In the process, we are saving billions in capital and engineering expense, delivering a significantly cost improved battery pack using purchased LFP cells.
Launched in late 2016 and originally aimed at the ride-sharing market, the Bolt had never sold as well as GM had originally hoped. But a series of price cuts, the addition of a roomier crossover-like “EUV” variant in 2021 – and American consumers’ steadily growing interest in EVs – combined to give the Bolt a sales surge in what was supposed to be its final years.
That sales surge is a big part of why GM decided to keep the Bolt around. Sales were up more than 50% in 2022, to just over 38,000. This year’s sales have already topped that number, with almost 50,000 Bolts sold through the end of September.
To be clear, the Bolt will be on hiatus for a while. GM still plans to end production of the current Bolt at its Michigan factory at the end of this year, and it hasn’t yet said when the revamped model will go on sale – or where it’ll be made. (The Bolt’s current factory in Michigan will be retooled to make electric versions of GM’s Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickup trucks.)
But with durable and relatively inexpensive lithium-iron phosphate (LFP) battery cells, GM’s improved Ultium platform and latest software, and NACS charging ports that will allow it to use Tesla’s Supercharger network, the new Bolt looks set to continue to win new buyers
“We’re getting to market at least two years faster, and our unit costs will be substantially lower,” Barra said.