GM Ditches Bolt EV/EUV in Favor of More Profitable Ultium Platform, Owners Concerned About Future Support
There is no denying that GM has dominated the entry level EV space with the most affordable new electric vehicles on sale. The Bolt EV and EUV with starting MSRP of $26,500 and $27,800 respectively are two of only three fully-electric vehicles under the $30,000 threshold. The prices for each could be even lower when applying the $7,500 EV tax credit. Even though there is strong demand for both vehicles, and they recently celebrated record sales, it just doesn’t look like it will be enough to save them. One reason could be that the company doesn’t know how to, or chooses not to, make the Bolt models profitably.
In 2019 CEO Mary Barra gave investors the impression that the Bolt EV wasn’t profitable, at the time saying, "We've talked about the fact that with our next generation of development, we want to make sure we have obtainable, profitable, desirable, and with the appropriate range.” While she didn’t outright speak to the profitability of the model, Daniel Rufiange of auto123.com said the implication was certainly there. It’s no secret that major automakers are struggling to build affordable electric vehicle options, and it looks like GM has finally said enough is enough.
On the company’s recent Q1 Investor call, CEO Mary Barra confirmed that Bolt EV and EUV production would end by the end of the year saying, “It’s now time to plan to end Chevy Bolt EV and EUV production, which will happen at the very end of the year.” The company plans to use the capacity at its Orion Township, Michigan, assembly plant to build electric trucks, like the Silverado EV and GMC Sierra EV, starting in 2024.
This move by the company is not entirely surprising with many owners and enthusiasts previously predicting the inevitable demise of their favorite EV when GM announced their plans to produce the Equinox EV and Blazer EV. However, those vehicles, built on the more profitable Ultium platform, are expected to have starting MSRPs above $30,000 and $44,000 respectively.
While the company has mentioned introducing an electric vehicle with a starting price less than the $30,000 (est.) Equinox, they haven’t given any details or other information about the possibility.
This move by the company leaves the American buyer without a solid option for an affordable electric vehicle. Charles Gerena, Lead Organizer of Drive Electric RVA, a chapter of the Electric Vehicle Association, and current Chevy Bolt EV owner was saddened by the news. “As an electric vehicle owner since 2014, a question I often get is what car I would recommend. The Bolt is the best value you can buy today, thanks to the range and capabilities you get for the price,” he said, “Unfortunately GM has decided to abandon the entry level end of the EV market, leaving the Nissan LEAF as the next best choice … and that car’s days are probably also numbered. The automakers are choosing maximum profits rather than giving consumers what they want. What a shame!”
Gerena isn’t the only owner with concerns, some are also worried that they won’t be able to rely on GM to provide important support in the future should repairs be needed.
Austin Clem, also a Chevy Bolt EV owner, recognizes that GM is focused on developing newer technology. “With the Ultium platform and things like solid state batteries on the horizon, old lithium-ion tech will very quickly be made undesirable,” he said, but added, “Questions can then be posed: How long should Chevrolet manufacture something like replacement Bolt EV traction batteries? Or outdated inverter/motor technology?”
GM doesn’t have the best track record regarding their support for EV models once production ends. Parts for Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid models are becoming less and less attainable, and owners of Chevy Spark EVs are struggling as well. Owners of the Chevy Spark EV, GM’s first modern all-electric vehicle, were briefly told last year by the company that they would be unable to have their high voltage battery replaced should it fail. While the company quickly (in a matter of days) made a u-turn in their messaging, owners with failed packs are still waiting on replacements with little guidance from the company on expected timelines. Many of the lucky owners still under the factory 8yr/100,000 mile battery warranty have waited many months, sometimes without a loaner vehicle from the company, until their car was repaired and back on the road. Owners of out-of-warranty Spark EVs have very little hope of any affordable option at all should their packs fail. Currently GM parts departments are showing a cost of $30,000 for a replacement pack, assuming they’d be able to get one at all.
Chris Weber, moderator of the Chevy Spark EV Owners Facebook Group and former Spark EV and Bolt EV owner shared an email from the company about the end of production for the Bolt EV and EUV, and quickly had concerns. “I find it interesting, the wording of that email,” she said. While the email does say, “all the support you have come to expect with your Bolt EUV will continue even though we are ending the production of this vehicle” Weber has well founded reservations, pointing out that “They don’t say how long they’ll continue support. Is it going to end tomorrow, next week, next year? I’m not going to hold my breath. Original Bolt EV owners are still upset about not having their batteries replaced [as a part of the battery recall on all Bolt EV and EUV vehicles] yet. GM promised that before the restarted production of the Bolts again… and that hasn’t happened.”
What owners would like to see from GM is assurance that they will be able to have affordable repairs performed in a timely fashion should they need it. Clem said that instead of abandoning their EV models for the next thing, he would rather see “Chevrolet provide modernization options for it’s older EVs.” Clem did, however, quickly acknowledge that it is unlikely the company would take the steps to make that happen.
An industry insider, who asked to remain anonymous, also pointed out that “GM either can’t or won’t (I’m going with the latter) upgrade the Bolt skateboard to Ultium. It won’t be hard, they just refuse to. All GM EV’s must be Ultium going forward.”
Regardless of what we can expect for the Bolt EV and EUV once production ends, the fact remains that, in a time when the average American buyer wants to see more affordable EV options, not less, GM is making decisions that are directly contrary to what the consumer wants. One of the largest hurdles to increased EV adoption is the inflated prices of current EV options. Without the Bolt EV and EUV, while the company might increase the vehicle profit margin, GM is abandoning the modern consumer in a time when these vehicles are needed, and wanted, most of all.