An all-new technology has a learning curve.
Back in 2016, the Chevrolet Bolt was revealed as the brand's first-ever mass-production electric vehicle. Its upright hatchback/crossover styling wasn't to everyone's tastes, but its 249-mile range on a single charge was impressive. Since then, more charging infrastructure has popped up throughout the country and EVs, in general, are being looked at more favorably. The all-new Porsche Taycan certainly helps with that.
For 2020, the Bolt has received a number of much-needed upgrades, among them an improved driving range of 259 miles. This does come at a cost, specifically a $1,000 price increase over last year's model, but Chevy is nonetheless confident it has "cracked the code" with the Bolt. Automotive News spoke to Mike Hayes, the Bolt's marketing manager, recently where he acknowledged the past few years have been something of a learning curve.
When the Bolt debuted in 2016, "you basically had two ends of the spectrum. You were either long-range and expensive or you were low range and affordable," Hayes said. "It was kind of this bimodal scenario where you had this big ocean out there of long-range and affordable. Nobody had been able to touch that space." Chevy achieved the improved range with a more powerful battery, specifically a 66-kWh unit instead of the previous 60-kWh battery.
Despite the slight price increase, the extended range proved to be a key element to boost sales. In the first nine months of this year, Bolt sales increased by 11 percent compared to the same period last year. The improved 2020 Bolt will hopefully boost sales even more thanks to those engineering and design improvements. But – and this is vital – Bolt sales will only increase if there's a solid dealership commitment.
At the moment, only 1,300 of Chevy's 3,000 US dealerships are Bolt certified, so additional training is necessary. Chevy also wants dealers to install a 240-volt charger and a fast charger on site. Bolt product specialists will also be sent to dealers for training staff. "That's critical for us because that means the dealer is invested and dedicated to this product," Hayes said. "Everything we do is to make sure that this is a consistent experience."
Not surprisingly, a fair amount of EV resistance from both customers and dealers boils down to a lack of understanding the product. Chevy aims to change that. In addition, Chevy recently created a Facebook page specifically for Bolt owners where, in the near future, they'll be able to communicate directly with engineers to discuss new features and anything else EV related. Communication and education is key for any new technology.