Bolt surges with new markets, attention

DETROIT — Sales of the Chevrolet Bolt doubled in the fourth quarter as General Motors ramped up promotional efforts for the only electric vehicle it currently sells in the U.S. in preparation for the wave of EVs it has coming.

Chevrolet officials said an expansion into new markets, additional training and advertising, and increased dealer buy-in propelled sales. More cash on the hood helped, too.
Incentives on the Bolt reached an average of $17,877 in the quarter, according to TrueCar, a 27 percent increase from a year earlier and more than triple GM’s average incentive spending per vehicle. The Bolt’s average transaction price dipped 12 percent to $32,780, according to TrueCar.

“They’re trying to drum up a little bit of excitement and show that they have some traction in the EV sector as they go into this rollout of this whole new onslaught of EVs,” said Paul Waatti, an analyst with AutoPacific. “They need to build a little bit of credibility going into that.”

Last year, GM said it would invest $27 billion toward electric and autonomous vehicle development and launch 30 EVs through 2025. Today, the automaker’s only U.S. EV is the Bolt, but GM has a utility version of it coming this year along with the GMC Hummer pickup, followed by the Cadillac Lyriq in 2022.

Bolt sales rose 26 percent in 2020 after more than doubling to 6,701 from October through December. The Bolt was the top-selling EV built by a traditional automaker, surpassing the Nissan Leaf by more than 2,000 vehicles in the fourth quarter.

One of Chevy’s objectives last year was to expand Bolt volume beyond California, Steve Hill, vice president of Chevrolet, told reporters last week.

“We changed our distribution strategy, which included training, marketing … and went to some incredibly important markets — college towns, East Coast, West, South Central, North Central,” he said.

Chevy also included the Bolt in its full-line advertising and launched dedicated Bolt ads targeted to EV-curious buyers, rather than only EV enthusiasts, said Steve Majoros, vice president of Chevrolet marketing.

Chevy worked to raise awareness and interest in the vehicle by doing walkarounds with dealers and putting Bolts into loaner fleets for service customers to use.

“It’s not just making sure the products are in the right place, but it’s doing things to make sure we can get customer interest,” said Majoros. “I like to use the phrase ‘must be present to win.’ You have to demonstrate and show people that Bolt EV is a big, important part of our portfolio.”


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