Bolt EV’s effect on Volt sales

Bolt EV vs. VoltThis is not good news for fans of the Chevy Volt. My Volt sales have dropped 60%, since the introduction of the Bolt EV. Here’s how it looks:
3-1/2 months before Bolt EV arrived:
  • Volt sales: 10 units
3-1/2 months after Bolt EV arrived:
  • Volt sales: 4 units
  • Bolt EV sales: 20 units
Some of this was pent up demand for the Bolt EV, which didn’t arrive in Texas until seven months, after it’s debut in California and Oregon. However, two of the Volts I sold were due to customers, who wanted the Bolt EV, switching to Volt because they found the seats uncomfortable in the Bolt EV. If not for that, the score would have been 22 to 2!
My last 5 Volt orders (for inventory) were scheduled to be built the week of 11/6/2017. The build dates just changed on these to 1/15/2018.
Ultimately, consumers will decide the fate of the Volt. It’s starting to look like people are MUCH more interested in going fully electric and waiting for infrastructure to get built instead of going with the Volt, which doesn’t need infrastructure build-out.

September 2017 Sales Numbers, an anniversary and a goodbye

September 2017 plug-in vehicle sales were mostly up, over the previous month.

For the last two years, September has been a pretty average month for me. This September was not as good as the two previous Septembers, but didn’t miss the previous one by much.

EV Sales NumbersOne other graphic, which I’ve shown before, is a zoomed in look at adoption rates (see below). The Bolt EV and plug-in Prius are the only vehicles I track that have seen a greater adoption rate than the original Prius. The plug-in Prius outpaced its ancestor for its first 15 months of availability, but did not keep up that pace and faded away over time. Now that the next generation Prius Prime has debuted, adoption rates have once again picked up. The Bolt EV, on the other hand has stayed above the original Prius adoption rate for 9 months, with only its debut in December 2016, when it was only available in California and Oregon, scoring lower than the Prius. The Bolt EV now enjoys a lead of 4,606 units after 10 months of availability. No other vehicle has ever had that much of an advantage, over the original Prius’ adoption rate. Second place falls to the plug-in Prius, which at its maximum had a lead of 2,471 units. The Model S had risen to a better adoption rate than the original Prius in its 40th month of availability, only to fall behind and stay there. The Model X, has stayed within striking distance of the Prius adoption rate, exceeding it in months 16, 17, 19 and 25 (last month). If the Model X’s first 3 months hadn’t been so low-volume, it may have produced a curve similar to the Bolt EV’s trajectory.

As the Plug-in Prius shows, the Bolt EV adoption may fizzle out, or it may be the next major turning point in automotive history, living up to the original Prius’ prominent spot.

Only time will tell.Starting Gate

Here are the September 2017 sales figures, compared to the previous month:

  • Chevy Volt: UP 1% (1,453 vs. 1,445)
  • Chevy Bolt EV: UP 25% (2,632 vs. 2,107)
  • Nissan Leaf: DOWN 9% (1,055 vs. 1,154)
  • Plug-in Toyota Prius: UP 4% (1,899 vs. 1,820)
  • Tesla Model S: UP 126% (4,860 vs. 2,150) **estimated
  • Tesla Model X: UP 98% (3,120 vs. 1,575) **estimated
  • BMW i3: UP 7% (538 vs. 504)
  • Ford Fusion Energi: UNCHANGED (763 vs. 762)
  • Ford C-Max Energy: DOWN 3% (683 vs. 705)
  • Hyundai Ioniq Electric: DOWN 45% (36 vs. 66)

In September, the average price of gasoline started out around $2.61 per gallon, rising steadily until the 7th. After the 7th, prices continued to fall, with a minor bump up around the 28th, ending the month at it’s lowest point, below $2.55.

My Sales By MonthMy Bolt EV sales have hit the following milestones:

  • After only three months, Bolt EV sales have now equalled or exceeded my four-year sales totals for nine other Chevy vehicles.
  • As a percentage of all vehicles I have sold, in my four years at Classic Chevrolet, plug-in vehicles (Volt & Bolt EV, at 24%) have exceeded the percentage of my sales that was SUVs (23%), Trucks (20%) and Corvettes (10%).
  • The last three months of Bolt EV sales are about one-fourth of my four year Volt sales.
  • For 2017, three months of my Bolt EV sales have exceeded my Volt sales for all nine months of 2017 so far.

Vehicle Sales By ModelMy September sales were comprised of three Bolt EVs, one Silverado, one Cruze, one Colorado, one Spark and one Volt. Bolt is still the vehicle of the moment. Volt pulled away from pickups, once again, but the Bolt EV is gaining quickly. I am definitely seeing much more customer interest in the Bolt EV than I am in the Volt.

Plug-in sales, compared to the same month a year ago, were mixed.

  • Chevy Volt: DOWN 28% (1,453 vs. 2,031)
  • Chevy Bolt EV: (was not available in September 2016)
  • Nissan Leaf: DOWN 20% (1,055 vs. 1,316)
  • Plug-in Toyota Prius: UP 47,375% (1,899 vs. 4) **previous generation Prius plug-in, dying out last September
  • Tesla Model S: UP 12% (4,860 vs. 4,350)
  • Tesla Model X: DOWN 2% (3,120 vs. 3,200)
  • BMW i3: UP 38% (538 vs. 391)
  • Ford Fusion Energi: DOWN 54% (763 vs. 1,652)
  • Ford C-Max Energi: DOWN 1% (683 vs. 689)
  • Hyundai Ioniq Electric: (was not available in September 2016)

My Business CardThe anniversary: Today marks the fourth anniversary of my becoming an EVangelist at Classic Chevrolet. It’s been a fun ride so far, with many changes made (and more to come, I’m sure).

Thanks to all who have helped me in this part of my journey.

Easy Tradin' DaleFinally, the retirement of a legendary salesperson: “Easy Trading” Dale Bryant. Dale’s desk was in a prime spot, in the main showroom, right next to the front doors. He had been in car sales for decades and was well known in that field. He taught me a lot about the business, when I first came on board, but what amazed me the most was his memory for his clients’ faces. A person would walk in and although Dale had not seen them for months (maybe even years) he would always say, “Hi, Mr. ______! How have you been?” He never seemed to draw a blank on a name! He had been at Chevy long enough that he knew all sorts of trivia on each well-established model. He was a wealth of knowledge and advice. I’ll miss him.

Have a wonderful retirement, Dale!

What Drives Us podcast

I had a GREAT time, last night, being interviewed on the What Drives Us video podcast. I am in episode #244, which hasn’t been posted yet.

I wish I’d found this podcast a long time ago. If you’re into EVs or hybrids, check this show out!

You can find them here on Facebook, here on their website or here on iTunes. It has shown up on YouTube.

Many thanks to last night’s What Drives Us panel: Russell Frost (Prius owner), Dr. Evan Fusco (Prius/Tesla owner), Tony Schaefer (Prius owner), Patrick Connor (Chevy S10 EV previous owner, Now a Leaf owner), Mark Coughlan (Volt owner) and Paul Guzyk (uh, Paul: What do you drive?).

Will the EV income tax credit punish the pioneers?

We’re approaching the 7th anniversary of mass-produced plug-in vehicles. Although the $7,500 income tax credit was expected to get 1,000,000 plug-in vehicles on the road quickly, we’re only about 2/3 of the way there, in the U.S. market. As of the end of last month, there were 686,192 plug-in vehicles that had been sold, in the U.S. Every single year, sales have increased. We are on track this year to possibly hit the 200,000 unit mark for the first time in a single year (depending on how December goes). December, due to year end sales promotions and the nearness to tax time, is always a very high production month.

This got me thinking about the pioneers and the stragglers.

The tax credit begins to go away, once a manufacturer sells their 200,000th plug-in vehicle. Three manufacturers are already well over 100,000 units sold: Tesla Motors, General Motors and Nissan. These are the manufacturers that paved the way for all the newcomers we’ve been reading about, with great expectation. However, they may be punished for their risk taking. When these three manufacturers hit the magic 200K units, the newcomers will have a distinct price advantage, as their customers will still be able to get the full tax credit, while the customers of the more established PHEV manufacturers will suddenly lose half the tax credit, a few months later 3/4 of it and shortly after that, all of it.

My question: Was this the strategy of the stragglers?

In the darker places of my mind, I can see a boardroom, where the executives are saying, “Let them take the risk! We can sit back and see how things develop. If PHEVs take off, we’ll be late to the game, but we won’t have paid the price of educating the consumers about them. Better yet, when the other guys lose the tax credit, we’ll have an amazing price advantage over them, giving us a huge leg up, into the market!”

I have complained about the implementation of the tax credit before. There were so many ways it could have been a much better tool to stimulate sales. It probably would have been a better stimulus, if the tax credit had been available until the total sales of all PHEVs in the U.S. reached a benchmark. For instance, if the goal of one million PHEVs had also been used as the end of the tax credit, the incentive would be to ramp up production much more quickly. To the bold would go the spoils! Stragglers would have the same tax credit available, but by dragging their feet, fewer of their vehicles would have qualified for it, because the pioneers would have gobbled much of it up. There would have been a race to produce quickly. Instead, we seem to have incentivized caution and failure to innovate.

I’m proud of the risks taken by the Big Three of PHEVs, but I am concerned about how they’ll fare, once they lose the tax credit and have to compete with competitors who have prices thousands of dollars lower than what they can successfully provide.

Disclaimer: I have had five Chevy Volts in my household. I love the Volt & Bolt EV (and Spark EV, Cadillac ELR, Tesla Model S, etc) so much, I changed careers to promote them. Part of my concern is definitely self-serving: How will I be able to sell, once the playing field is so badly tilted against me?

Plug-in newbie advice

I had an interesting experience yesterday, involving a conversation during a Bolt EV sale, that I’d like to share with you.

The customer was ex-military. He was an F-15 pilot, who had served in the Afghanistan conflict. He is a really nice, intelligent guy and we hit it off, a while back, when he came in to discuss the Bolt EV. He decided to place an order and as is my usual method, I kept him apprised of its progress through the manufacturing and shipping process. He was very excited the day I emailed him to say his Bolt EV had arrived!

He had a 2014 Volt lease that was coming to an end, so once his new Bolt EV arrived, he waited a little bit to use up the remainder of his Volt lease. He came in on September 12th to pick up his Bolt EV and drop off his Volt.

As is customary, I asked him to test drive his new Bolt EV before we submitted the paperwork to acquire it. I took him on my usual test drive, which is focused on instruction about the vehicle, even though he’d just completed three years in the Volt. I always show off Sport Mode, L (on the shifter) and the regen paddle (on the steering wheel). I configure the driver information center (the display behind the steering wheel) to “Enhanced,” because it gives the driver quantified information about regen.

At one point, the customer said, “I really like the regen feature. I wish the Volt had had L in the first gen.” When I explained that increased regen, by running in L, has been around since the very first Volts, he was quite surprised.

Then he told me about his experience, getting the Volt. He had dealt with a different dealership whose sales staff really didn’t know about the car. He said, when he asked questions about buttons or functions, their responses were loaded with a lot of “I think…” rather than definitive answers. Some of the advice he had received turned out to be incorrect.

Although General Motors requires the sales staff to pass certain on-line and in-showroom training courses, there’s nothing quite like the experience of driving a plug-in vehicle every day. Otherwise, the information learned is almost anecdotal and can become confused in the salesperson’s mind. If you’re going to buy a pickup, SUV, Camaro or Corvette, just about any dealer will suffice. Most salespeople can easily discuss rear axle gear ratios, torque, Magnetic Ride Control, towing capacity, etc, because they’ve been discussing it (and living it) for years. However, plug-in vehicles are a new thing to most of them.

Another client story was about a clueless salesperson, in the DFW area, that turned him off on the Volt. However, during a trip to Austin, he met a very well-informed female salesperson who could tell him, in great detail, all about the Volt, so he got one.

The most egregious violation, by a salesperson, that I’ve heard so far was posted in a Bolt EV group on Facebook. A buyer was told they could add the optional DC Fast Charging capability after the purchase! I don’t recall if the angry customer, who bought the Bolt EV and later tried to get DCCFC added, ever stated why the salesperson lied. Perhaps all their dealership had is stock were units withoud the option and they needed a sale…

These new vehicles aren’t your dad’s Chevys (unless you’re my daughter, Zoe). They have amazing features and capabilities that need to be shared with those new to the plug-in world. Without this depth of knowledge, a potential customer may walk away from a plug-in vehicle, because no one made a good benefit analysis for the customer. If the customer buys anyway, they won’t get all the benefit of these amazing vehicles or worse, they may get bad advice and actually end up hating their vehicle because they don’t understand it.

If you’re a seasoned plug-in vehicle owner, it isn’t quite as important, where you purchase your new plug-in. However, if you’re a newbie and want the best out of your investment, walk out of any dealership, if the salesperson a) tries to talk you into a vehicle they understand better, b) denigrates your vehicle of choice to switch you away from it or c) doesn’t seem to know much about the vehicle in which you’re interested.

Trust me. You’ll be glad you did.

National Drive Electric Week 2017 #NDEW2017

It’s that time of year again: It’s National Drive Electric Week! Well…actually, it starts on September 9th and goes through the 17th. As bookends to the week, I will be at the NDEW2017 gathering at Grapevine Mills Mall on Saturday, September 9th. Form 10:00AM until noon, there will be a gathering of plug-in vehicle owners, supporters and the EV-curious. It’s a;ways a good time and I’ll have the Chevy Bolt EV and Volt with me.

On the last day of NDEW2017, Sunday the 17th, I will have Bolt EVs at “Run with the Sun,” in Irving, Texas. At that event, I plan to take people on test drives. There’s nothing like “butts in seats” to prove how great EVs are!Run with the SunI hope to see you at these great events!

August 2017 Sales Numbers

August 2017 plug-in vehicle sales were mixed. Ford and Hyundai have not yet released their sales figures, but I must plunge ahead.

For the last two years, August has been a pretty average month for me. This August was exceptionally good, mainly due to my Bolt EV sales. Eight of my 15 sales were Bolt EVs and over half of those were not ordered for the customer. In other words, the buyers were just shopping, test drove the Bolt EV and bought it on the spot!

On the first of September, The Dallas Morning News wrote a review of the Bolt EV that was very positive. Customers showed up that day to check them out and several are turning into sales or orders.

m and gThe 2018 Volt has started production and my first 2018 Volt order was delivered. The customers drive in from Midland, Texas to get their Volts from me (this is their second one). That’s over 320 miles. I am impressed and thankful.

August 2017 EV Sales NumbersHere are the August 2017 sales figures, compared to the previous month:

  • Chevy Volt: DOWN 5% (1,445 vs. 1,518)
  • Chevy Bolt EV: UP 7% (2,107 vs. 1,971)
  • Nissan Leaf: DOWN 10% (1,154 vs. 1,283)
  • Plug-in Toyota Prius: UP 11% (1,820 vs. 1,645)
  • Tesla Model S: UP 51% (2,150 vs. 1,425) **estimated
  • Tesla Model X: DOWN 5% (1,575 vs. 1,650) **estimated
  • BMW i3: DOWN 16% (504 vs. 601)
  • Ford Fusion Energi: UP 8% (762 vs. 703) **awaiting sales features
  • Ford C-Max Energy: DOWN 16% (705 vs. 844) **awaiting sales features
  • Hyundai Ioniq Electric: UP 53% (66 vs. 43) **awaiting sales features

In August, the average price of gasoline stayed about the same as the previous month, until gasoline shortages started appearing, due to Hurricane Harvey shutting down refineries along the Texas coast. It then spiked, in the last few days of the month, driving the average price up 10 cents per gallon!

My Sales By MonthAs I mentioned earlier, July 2017 marked my first Bolt EV sales. In the graph above, the largest bar for June, July and August is red, showing that the last three months are some of the best I have enjoyed in car sales. The Bolt EV has already passed up seven other vehicles I have sold, in volume. There are eighteen new vehicles I have sold in my career at Classic Chevrolet. The Bolt is already near my average number of sales, by vehicle type, and I’ve been selling it only two months so far!

Vehicle Sales By ModelMy August sales were comprised of eight Bolt EVs, three Silverados, two Traverses, and two Volts. I finally sold Silverado pickups again, as well as two Volts, which continues to be my most popular vehicle, although it lost a little ground to the Silverado last month.

Plug-in sales, compared to the same month a year ago, were mixed.

  • Chevy Volt: DOWN 31% (1,445 vs. 2,081)
  • Chevy Bolt EV: (was not available in August 2016)
  • Nissan Leaf: UP 8% (1,154 vs. 1,066)
  • Plug-in Toyota Prius: UP 90,900% (1,820 vs. 2) **previous generation Prius plug-in, dying out last August
  • Tesla Model S: DOWN 31% (2,150 vs. 3,125)
  • Tesla Model X: DOWN 14% (1,575 vs. 1,833)
  • BMW i3: DOWN 50% (504 vs. 1,013)
  • Ford Fusion Energi: DOWN 46% (762 vs. 1,422)
  • Ford C-Max Energi: UNCHANGED (705 vs. 707)
  • Hyundai Ioniq Electric: (was not available in August 2016)