Home » GM’s Decision To Off The Chevy Bolt Seems Baffling, The More You Think About It

GM’s Decision To Off The Chevy Bolt Seems Baffling, The More You Think About It

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I thought the backlash to General Motors killing Apple CarPlay was bad (albeit understandable on certain levels.) But that was nothing compared to how mad everyone is that the Chevrolet Bolt EV—specifically, the idea of it—is going away now too.

We’ll look at why in today’s morning roundup, and we’ll examine where Honda’s at in the electric race; what happens when China falls out of love with American cars; and how Facebook might be screwing with car dealers. Strap yourselves in, kids! It’s time to get mad about cars online.

The Chevy Bolt Is Dead, But… Why?

Chevy Bolt 2016 2023 2

I’ll start this post off with some obligatory football-spiking: The Autopian was actually one of the first media outlets to report the demise of the Bolt and Bolt EUV after the 2023 model year. Thank you all for your continued support; showing up bigger, more established competitors is what gets us out of bed in the morning.

But what’s been really interesting is the backlash to this decision. Tributes and eulogies for the Bolt can be found far and wide; I wrote one for Heatmap, The Verge’s gadget guru and Bolt owner Dan Seifer wrote one, Road & Track wrote a good one and called it a “shame,” and Ars Technica points out the utterly baffling outcome that somehow the Jaguar I-Pace (!!!) outlasted the Bolt.

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I would’ve lost a lot of money on that bet back in 2018.

And as Electrek—which named the Bolt its car of the year last year—points out, this car was not a failure. Don’t think its cancellation means that it was. The thing was actually doing quite really, really well lately:

The Bolt was the best U.S. selling non-Tesla EV in the first quarter with almost 20,000 sold. Chevy dealers are seeing very long lines for the vehicle, sometimes reaching until the end of the year when GM will cease production.

GM said that 75% of Bolt owners were new to GM, the highest conquest rate for any of its vehicles. At the same time, Bolt owners are among the happiest with 80% saying they would buy another Chevy.

The Bolt is coming off its best-selling year and quarter ever with GM unable to fill demand.

[…] Anecdotally, I own a Bolt EV and 2 older Teslas and my wife and I fight over who gets to take the Bolt every morning. It is a pleasure to drive, has great Wireless CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity, great sound system, great visibility, quick pickup and smart handling.

Hell of a car to kill off, GM. I don’t want to say this has the same level of EV1 vibes because that’s a different situation.

Here’s the thing: Cars get discontinued all the time. The Bolt was very good, but its tech was getting old. It couldn’t fast-charge on the level of newer competitors, and GM’s got a bunch of new EVs planned on its next-gen Ultium hardware/software and homegrown batteries. So it goes.

The problem here is that GM seemingly has nothing in the pipeline to replace the Bolt, a small, cheap, high-range EV. In fact, nobody does. The Nissan Leaf is about to join the Bolt in Car Heaven too. The Tesla Model 3 is getting super affordable, but it’s not crossing into that $20,000 range yet. GM points you to the Equinox EV, and if it can pull off that $30,000-before-incentives price, it’ll be good—but not as cheap as the Bolt and a hell of a lot bigger.

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2024 Chevrolet Equinox Ev 3lt 116
Chevy Equinox EV

What are we supposed to do if we want an affordable, compact EV? No car company seems willing to step up there; in America, our market is $60,000 trucks and SUVs financed over eleventy-billion years at double-digit interest rates. That’s going to carry over into the electric era too. And then everybody wonders why the repo business is booming. Moreover, I wonder what happens to municipal and corporate fleets now that the Bolt’s gone. I hope to look more into that this week.

It’s all baffling. Even if GM needed to move on from the Bolt’s outdated hardware, the car did prove there’s demand for something smaller and more affordable in this space. The idea that an automaker just doesn’t want to make it, possibly because the obscene profit margins won’t be there, is tough.

Anyway, RIP to the Bolt, a real one. It’s nice to see such tributes for a car that was often (wrongly) derided as an also-ran behind the sexier Model 3. It’ll be missed. Clearly.

What Happens When China Eats America’s Lunch?

Byd Seagull Side Profile
Photo: BYD

You know which automakers are building cheap, affordable EVs? Chinese ones.

The big through-line from last week’s Auto Shanghai show is that China’s homegrown auto industry is advancing rapidly, and its “foreign” brands from Western and other Asian countries are quickly losing relevance and market share.

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This is very bad news for those automakers, who considered China to be a golden goose that would lay eggs endlessly for them. Let’s take GM, for example. China has been its biggest market for years, accounting for 22% of GM’s global sales in 2022. But that market share has been on the decline since the mid-2010s when it peaked at around 15%.

That’s a lot of money about to be lit on fire. The smart take on this trend comes from Insider’s Alexa St. John and Nora Naughton, who talk to Ford CEO Jim Farley about what’s happening too:

“The market has totally changed,” Jim Farley, the CEO of Ford, told reporters at a Thursday charity event in Detroit. “We’re going to have to rethink what the Ford brand means in a place like China.”

That’s especially true as EVs take center stage, Farley said, noting that he has learned the luxury brands that sell only electric vehicles do best in Chinese markets.

Chinese EV-maker market share in China rose by 17% in 2022, while that of foreign automakers dropped by 11%. Some of this can be attributed to Chinese car companies’ ability to build better and cheaper cars, especially EVs, that consumers are keen to buy.

“It’s pretty much the consensus belief that the US automakers are increasingly irrelevant” in China, Edison Yu, an analyst at Deutsche Bank, told Insider.

“As we make this transition to EV, the GMs, the Fords in China will really have to be very bold and aggressive to find success,” Yu said. “At some point, there needs to be either a decision to continue or to pull out… We’re at a point where one does need to make a decision on their future.”

Pull out? Good Lord. That sentence would’ve been unfathomable even a few years ago.

I’ve cited this anecdote before here, but I remember a conversation with one European brand’s auto executive a few years ago who said China would mean endless growth because it was making new millionaires every single day. (I guess they don’t teach in business schools that up-and-to-the-right growth forever is impossible.)

But beyond that, I’m not sure the auto industry ever really counted on China catching up as hard and fast as it has. Granted, that often came from those joint ventures with foreign companies, which have been required by Chinese law; they learned how to make cars from us as they built up their own local supply chains.

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Now they’re expanding into Europe, and it’s just the start. It’s like the opposite of Vegas now: “What happens in China will not stay in China,” Bill Russo, the CEO of Automobility, told Insider in January.

Honda Wants To ‘Fight Back’ And Folks, We Are Here For It

Honda E 2021 1600 04
Photo: Honda

“Do you have any good news for me today, PG?”, you may now be asking. “Or just doom and gloom?” Fair! But I don’t make the news, I just tell you what’s going on. Now, here is something a little more positive.

A week after Toyota’s new CEO outlined its strategy to get ahead on EVs, Honda is doing the same. Both companies are guilty of lagging on battery-powered cars to focus on hydrogen and hybrids, and while those are important, the events in China are one of a thousand reasons they need to get it together. This is exactly what Honda’s CEO vows to do now, reports Automotive News:

Honda CEO Toshihiro Mibe admits falling behind in the global race for electric vehicles. Now he is outlining a sweeping strategy to “fight back” and rekindle Honda’s mojo.

Honda’s radical revamp hinges on new models, better batteries, powerful software and a totally transformed driver interface, along with dedicated EV factories and a completely overhauled production system being developed by one of the world’s most innovative manufacturers.

The pivot point, Mibe said, starts in 2025. That’s when Honda launches its new dedicated EV platform for midsize cars in North America. The following year, it rolls out its in-house software ecosystem to drive new revenue from things like apps and subscription services. The plans also call for next-generation batteries, including solid-state batteries; a huge EV manufacturing hub in Ohio; and overhauling the entire manufacturing process to be “totally different from a conventional automobile production line,” Mibe said.

This is exciting news. If Toyota’s not to be underestimated on the manufacturing front, Honda is the same when it comes to innovation and engineering. Historically, this company is always at its best when it’s an upstart taking on bigger competitors, and hitting back twice as hard when it gets knocked down.

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Innovation will be key. As with Toyota, the whole “we’ll do our own software and batteries and make you pay for apps” thing is basically what every other OEM wants to do. The difference is the Japanese are a few years behind a bunch of others, including GM, Ford and Tesla—to say nothing of the giants rising out of China.

In fact, China is what’s spooking Japan to stop resting on its laurels, and Honda’s execs said as much:

The CEO outlined the vision on Wednesday while giving Honda’s annual business briefing. Mibe said Honda executives had an unpleasant surprise at this month’s Shanghai auto show.

Local Chinese brands flooded the exhibition hall with sophisticated, advanced EVs of all kinds. As COO Shinji Aoyama put it, “We were overwhelmed by the Chinese.”

Mibe said Chinese EVs had made big strides during the COVID-19 pandemic when the world was largely cut off from the country by travel restrictions and quarantine measures.

“They are ahead of us, even more than expected,” Mibe said. “We are thinking of ways to fight back. If not, we will lose this competition… We recognized we are slightly lagging behind, and we are determined to turn the tables.”

If any automaker can, it’s Honda. But it’s got its work cut out.

Meta Messes With Dealers

Car Dealership
Photo credit: “Row of Cars at a Car Dealership” by everycar_listed_photos is marked with CC BY-SA 2.0.

Having spent my career in media, I can’t say I have a lot of love for Facebook (or Meta, as its parent company is now called.) Throughout the last decade, it went like this: Facebook makes big promises for audience returns if you just invest a ton in paid ads, or live video, or regular video,  or Instant Articles, or whatever bullshit it was pimping that month, only to inevitably change its mind and pull the plug after whole business plans were made around these platforms. Then come the layoffs.

It’s like a heroin dealer who sells you drugs, then calls the cops on you, but still says “See you next week, yeah?”

Great news, car dealers: You’re next on Facebook’s list. Now, the platform won’t let car dealers post on Facebook Marketplace via a Facebook Business page. They have to pay for ads there instead.

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Here’s Automotive News to explain:

Meta’s Facebook Marketplace is enforcing new restrictions on vehicle listings that appear designed to push car dealers toward paid advertising, and the change is creating an uneven early impact.

[…] Meta early this year notified users it would no longer let sellers create used-vehicle listings via a Facebook business page as of Jan. 30. Similar restrictions applying to real estate and rentals were also made. The changes follow Facebook’s 2021 decision to end dealerships’ ability to push inventory in Facebook Marketplace via marketing partners.

Moving forward, dealerships have only paid advertising options on Facebook Marketplace, though free person-to-person listings for vehicles and real estate are still available on the broader platform, according to a person familiar with Facebook’s auto dealership business. The free Meta/Facebook options still available for dealers? Business Facebook pages, Instagram handles and WhatsApp messaging accounts.

Everybody who’s worked in digital media for the past few years:

Screen Shot 2023 04 26 At 9.46.03 Am

Now, some dealers are a little spooked. One shop told Automotive News that “10 to 15 percent of its used sales come through Facebook Marketplace,” which is surprisingly high. Others said that they never really depended on the platform too much, or got wise to it early on when they noticed too many other dealers were there too, saturating the market (another media parallel!)

Anyway, dealers, my advice is to never get too addicted to any one third-party platform you don’t directly control. Things have a weird way of blowing up in your face when you do. But good luck to Meta in the meantime; they need tons of revenue to fund that “Metaverse” bullshit where we all have meetings looking like characters from a third-rate Sims knockoff. Oh wait, no, it’s AI now! What a dumb company.

Your Turn

Who should step up to make affordable, compact EVs? I’d love to see Honda pull this off. There’s clearly a need for something Bolt-sized and Bolt-priced. If the established automakers don’t pull this off, you can bet BYD will figure it out sooner or later.

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Bizness Comma Nunya
Bizness Comma Nunya
1 month ago

Not baffling.

They wanted to make a model 3 competitor, instead they produced something that looks like a Pokemon. It was engineered pre-Ulitum, it’s current packs are being recalled to the tune of a shit load of money.

GM tried, but it seems like the Bolt was too much of design by committee example and they ended up with a camel.

Not a bad car, I was considering a used one but wanted AWD. But not baffling when you look at the rest of the EV landscape.

stefthepef
stefthepef
1 month ago

HOOOOOONDA

BRING US THE E

Somewhat Like a Rock
Somewhat Like a Rock
1 month ago

GM can no longer afford a loss leader vehicle like the Bolt, I am assuming. Also, I am assuming these cheap Chinese EVs are the same garbage they used to make as 3 and 4 bangers and dump into South America and Africa – some of the worst cars I ever been in as far as taxis go. Seriously, those cars were straight death traps.

MDMK
MDMK
1 month ago

On one hand, if a demand shift to smaller EVs preferred by the growing population of urban singles and smaller families leads to China brands dominating the affordable EV commuter market, it’s easy to see how GM may look back and realize its mistake starting with helping to get Americans used to buying China manufactured vehicles via its Buick brand. The Bolt could’ve continued on for years on the same platform with timely minor updates, essentially becoming the EV equivalent of the old VW Beetle happily purchased by millions of consumers uncaring about having the latest and greatest.

On the other hand, given how manufactures are quick to import models these days,GM would probably simply rebrand China made EV commuters as Chevys and wrap them in American flags.

Ron888
Ron888
1 month ago

I have to say i’m pleased so many will miss the Bolt.I always thought it a great effort for a ‘budget’ model.I even liked it’s looks.
I’m also not surprised GM is giving up this space.Americans are insisting they want big expensive vehicles.Why argue with that?

Honda’s radical revamp hinges on.. (etc).
I like that Honda want to do *something* but this is mostly hot air.Apologies in advance for my grumpiness!
-Better batteries? Really Honda?You have something definite or are you just saying something to convince yourselves?Forgive my doubts but we’ve heard this far too many times.If you’re planning to throw lots of resources at the problems ,then just say that.
-Powerful software (subscriptions etc)? Lets not mince words.This is a shit idea.Fuck you.
-A totally transformed driver interface? How exactly? I’ll give you some room here but i fail to understand what you can do that a 20 other car companies arent already doing.Also i fear the answer is ‘screens,big bright ones’.
-Dedicated EV factories.At last something not imagined.
-A completely overhauled production system.How may i ask will this be much better than Japan’s already near perfect production systems?? Are other EV makers doing it so wrong?

zeppelopod
zeppelopod
1 month ago

I guess they don’t teach in business schools that up-and-to-the-right growth forever is impossible.”

Not only do they not teach it, I reckon any MBA student who realizes that gets their entrails used for divination by the NASDAQ haruspices.

rctothefuture
rctothefuture
1 month ago

The Bolt cancellation is not baffling. You’re not seeing it from GM’s perspective. It’s a stop-gap EV with more third party technology than GM let’s on. Yes, it’s a great EV and people that own them love them. That being said, GM has it’s not Ultium battery platform now. They want to make money on EV’s, and having 2 different battery platforms to service, update, manufacture, and support is asking for a nightmare. It’s easy to kill the Bolt, let it go until the last one falls out of warranty and drop all support.

The new cars and SUV’s built on Ultium will make good profits for GM. Especially when the models will more than likely be $50k plus in pricing. After you see the Ultium platform making a profit, you move on to a new version of the Bolt (or equivalent size sedan/hatchback). You get better battery tech, better charging speeds, and the piece of mind that GM will have sorted most issues at that point.

theotherotter
theotherotter
1 month ago

Re: the Volt, I’m not surprised by this move, but I’m disappointed. I have access to one to drive when I like, and it’s a really good little EV for city use. All the pluses you mentioned and it’s maneuverable and easy to park and has good visibility. Plus it’s light, so it’s energy efficient. As for as the impact of this on municipal fleet customers, that’s part of why I’m disappointed. I wrote the specs for my city’s long-term EV purchases (vehicle’s we’re buying now are bought using short-term means) and essentially wrote one part of it around the Bolt. Fine, it’s easy to change, and most likely I bet we’re going to end up with Blazers and Equinoxes. Users will probably like them better because they’re “SUVs”, but we’re going to spend significantly more money on them. Still, it’s not earth-shattering, and what’s in the pipeline is fine. For reasons pointed out already, cars (vs. big, heavy things) do particularly well as EVs and I’m disappointed to see GM making their lineup a bit less car-like.

hugh crawford
hugh crawford
1 month ago

Other than being eye damagingly ugly, the bolt seemed just right

I think Tesla has the right idea of making a bland design, design the cost per unit way down, and just keep tweaking and improving while lowering the price.

If people are going to keep their cars longer they don’t want a car that is going to be visibly obsolete the year after they buy it. That was VW and Volvo’s strategy in their heyday.

andyindividual
andyindividual
1 month ago

“Who should step up to make affordable, compact EVs?”

I predict this will be Jaguar’s next pivot after they fail to compete with Bentley. /s

nlpnt
nlpnt
1 month ago

The Bolt is/was the car America needed – a cheap small long-range EV both as proof-of-concept that such things are possible and with appeal to second-tier early adopters who don’t care it’s small and econobox-looking since they’re keeping their bigger, more impressive-looking gas “road trip car” alongside it or roadtrip infrequently-to-never.
It is/was a car American wants, as evidenced by the above sales numbers which could’ve been much higher if not supply-limited.

It’s exactly the car a certain part of the pundit class constantly tells us ” *THEY* want us all to drive” but once GM closes the order books *THEY* won’t sell us one if we want it.

OnceInAMillenia
OnceInAMillenia
1 month ago

For the cheap car/EVs and US OEMs falling behind:

I keep a running list of modern cars that I like, so if I ever needed to go shopping again, I already have a shortlist ready.

That said, there isn’t a single vehicle in the last 5 years – ICE or EV – from the Big 3, Germans, or Japanese manufacturers that even remotely interested me, with the mild exception of the Bolt (until all the battery fire recalls)

Acknowledging the CCP policies and data surveillance issues that make Chinese cars a harder sell here, I sincerely hope their efforts to make great, small, affordable cars pushes the OEMs – but especially the US ones – to change things up, because it feels like we’re in a crossover malaise era these days.

ForbesTheWeirdo
ForbesTheWeirdo
1 month ago

Now we just need Honda to bring the E over here! I have almost pulled the trigger on a bolt a couple times and always liked them, the news of their demise is disappointing, I get the equinox replaces EUV, but no one is cross shopping the standard bolt with a big dumb crossover

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
1 month ago

The Bolt being….. a little dumb crossover?

ForbesTheWeirdo
ForbesTheWeirdo
1 month ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

Not really, the EUV definitely is, the base car is very much just a hatchback. I guess these days the Kia soul is considered a crossover so maybe, but I see the bolt as more xB than crossover. Either way, the bolt and equinox are very different cars that will not be compared by many people

theotherotter
theotherotter
1 month ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

No, think of the Bolt as being like a 4-door Fiesta hatchback.

richardodn
richardodn
1 month ago

My wife and I are now with a dilemma. We have a reservation with a local Chevy dealer to special order a Bolt EUV. We’re waiting for them to get an allocation for the order although there are a few in front of us. We are seriously thinking of doing the Equinox EV instead. At this point I’m actually hoping that we don’t get our allocation for a few months so that we can get more information on pricing and availability before we have to make a final decision.

Ron888
Ron888
1 month ago
Reply to  richardodn

Can you drop down the queue? Is that possible?

MP81
MP81
1 month ago

They’re discontinuing the Bolt because Orion Assembly is scheduled to make the Silverado and Sierra EVs…

Man With A Reliable Jeep
Man With A Reliable Jeep
1 month ago
Reply to  MP81

That’s what they want you to think…

bertfrog
bertfrog
1 month ago

Here’s my take on the cheap car in America phenomenon:
To summarize in one word as many have mentioned – CREDIT

After World War II through 60’s some small cars like the VW beetle were able to sell in huge numbers despite being very cheap and basic cars because people would pay cash and credit was not a thing.

The same thing in the 1970s when credit was terrible. Having interest rates that were double digits forced people to buy lesser cars with cash or smaller loans.

Starting in the 90s, Americans could start buying things on easy credit. Cars became more upscale and expensive as with many other stuff with the explosion of other consumer items such as vast types of electronics, and later cell phones, and even homes. This infected nearly all, not just the poors. The wealthy Also borrowed because of historically low interest rates and everyone else in between.

I don’t see anytime in the foreseeable future where people will WANT to buy cheap cars now that we’ve had a generation of buying “nicer“ stuff (eg cars) on easy credit. Or why borrow a little when it’s just as easy to borrow a lot?

Some argue that this same phenomenon happened in higher education costs that exceeded inflation for decades.

rabob128
rabob128
1 month ago
Reply to  bertfrog

Credit combined with the fact that most people buy cars and keep them longer and longer every year. Makes sense you buy something nicer since you’re gonna be driving it longer.

OnceInAMillenia
OnceInAMillenia
1 month ago
Reply to  bertfrog

It’s ridiculous what some people are paying monthly for a car, especially knowing that plenty are doing 84-96 months at 8% interest now.

I’ve had several nice cars, but it’s so much easier to have a cheap car that you don’t fret and worry about every little bump or scratch, and having plenty of extra cash doesn’t hurt since you’re paying 8% on 25k instead of 60k.

Even making good money, I’d take a Honda Fit over an Audi any day

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