Low-cost electric car may return to the United States soon

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Last year, before GM was ready to publicly acknowledge the death of the Chevrolet Bolt, the puzzle pieces pointed so clearly to that outcome that we wrote, “Tell me you’re killing the Bolt without telling me you’re killing the Bolt.” The automaker made it official in April of this year, telling dealers they could order the popular electric hatch until this summer, ending production around Q3. But the solution to one puzzle starts another puzzle, and the new pieces allow us to play the same game with GM from the opposite direction. That is, “Tell us you’re bringing back the Bolt without telling us you’re bringing back the Bolt.”

NPR’s Marketplaces podcast host Kai Ryssdal stopped by GM’s Warren Technical Center for a chat with GM CEO Mary Barra about the automaker’s EV plans. Nearly ten minutes in, Barra said she’s been driving a Bolt and she loves it. When Ryssdal asked why the company is killing the car, Barra replied: “Because it’s our second-generation technology. The difference between our second generation and third generation, which is Ultium, is a 40% reduction in battery costs. And we’re leveraging the names of our vehicles that are well understood and known in the industry.People, you know, who drives an Equinox today will understand what an Equinox EV, what that delivers to them.But, you know, Bolt is something that has built up a lot of loyalty and equity. So I can’t say more because I don’t discuss future product programs, but, you know, it was primarily a move from second generation to third generation. But that’s [an] important vehicle in our portfolio.”

Ryssdal responded the same way we would have, saying, “Nudge nudge, wink wink, I guess.”

Back to that post from last year concerning the Bolt’s end. GM had said there would be a “more affordable EV” under the coming Equinox planned to start at $30,000, leading us to write that an EV positioned beneath the Equinox EV is effectively a Bolt. One of the questions at the time was what GM would call this entry-level EV. No one expected, “Bolt.”

Echoes of the CEO’s comments to Ryssdal can be found in sentiments Chevrolet CMO Steve Majoros shared with Automotive News in April. When Majoros talked about the Bolt giving way to the Equinox EV, he told AN“Early on, [the Bolt] was conquesting north of 85 percent, which means these were all brand-new people to Chevrolet. And what you find in EVs, there’s a tremendous amount of brand loyalty, but it’s really a propulsion decision. And so if we can bring people in based on the propulsion proposition that they’re looking for, we can do it with a brand that they’re familiar with, with brand names they’re familiar with, that works well for us.”

EV shoppers are familiar with the Bolt name. We think getting a redone Bolt on an Ultium platform, with all the benefits to range, charging, technology, MSRP, and GM’s bottom line that the switch could mean, would be a win for a huge chunk of buyers in the EV marketplace.

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