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!

Book review: Dark Money

Dark MoneyWant to get really depressed? Have I got a book for you!

Jane Mayer’s “Dark Money,” is a thoroughly researched, very detailed account of how small, tactical changes to laws have changed politics in our country. At a time when Americans are deeply disgusted with politics, it’s an interesting and important book.

I realize both sides of the political spectrum are using dark money to manipulate the masses and to frame today’s political discourse, but this book really explains how it has been done. It describes how our democracy has been stolen from us, with our approval. It explains how we, as a people have become so polarized, but more importantly, who (at least in the case of conservatives) is behind it and why.

The names involved include a who’s who of current political events, like Charles and David Koch, The DeVos family, Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, Mitch McConnell, as well as other names familiar to you.

My interest is in the current climate change debate and how we went from a point where the majority of Americans believed the scientific consensus to the current point of constant debate. Make no mistake, the same firms that confused the public about whether or not tobacco was harmful were involved in creating the confusion about global climate change. In fact, their slogan was “Doubt is our product.” And who pays these firms for their work? Why those who have been fined millions upon millions of dollars for damage to the environment and see rules preventing them from doing this as infringements on their freedom. Those who, to make an extra $7 million, reopened a gas pipeline they knew to “leak like swiss cheese,” killing two teenagers, when it exploded, resulting in a $298 million dollar civil judgement against them. Those whose employees, when they reported dumping of MERCURY onto the ground near rivers, were terminated for reporting the crime to management or the authorities. One instance of mercury dumping poisoned the fish for fifty miles downstream and made it into people who unknowingly ate those fish.

Did you know your politicians created a law allowing the very wealthy to place their children’s inheritances into trusts, where if the funds remained untouched for twenty years and the interest earned was donated to non-profit organizations, became a tax free inheritance? That doesn’t sound so bad, until it is uncovered that those same rich people created their own non-profit organizations which then distributed the interest earned to political campaigns, via donations to other non-profits, which removed their fingerprints from the funds. Some of the schemes were described by the officials trying to investigate them as “Russian nested dolls.”

It is one thing to confuse smokers into believing that the product they’re using isn’t killing them. That affects the users of tobacco and their families, but leaves the rest of us unscathed.

It is quite another thing to confuse the public into believing in “clean coal” or that global climate change is a “job killer” or is an evil plot by liberals to redistribute wealth from “doers” to “takers.” In this latter case, we all lose if we kill the planet.

Again, I believe both sides are doing this and the media is complicit, focusing on false “outrages” to keep the people of America distracted.

When will we wake up?

Will it be too late?

Where are the true statesmen/women?

Tax planning

IRS logoAs we’re about to enter the final quarter of the year, thoughts turn to the holidays and then…tax season. This year and next planning is especially important. The three top producers of plug-in vehicles, that qualify for the full $7,500 Federal Income Tax Credit for all-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles will probably hit their 200,000th unit sale in 2018. Depending on the modeling you employ, this could start happening as early as mid-year or closer to the end of 2018.

For the uninitiated, there is an income tax credit for those who buy (not lease) all-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles. But not all vehicles get the same tax credit. The amount of the tax credit is determined by the size of the battery pack. Also, it is important to understand the difference between a tax deduction (like the deduction for having a child, property taxes paid or mortgage interest paid) and a tax credit.

A tax deduction is a deduction off your income, so if you have a deduction, with a value of $2,000, it reduces your taxes by the deduction multiplied by your tax rate. It’s a little more complicated than that, due to how tax brackets affect the calculations, but this example is close enough for horseshoes or hand grenades. If your tax bracket is 25%, the tax deduction of $2,000 only reduces the taxes you owe by $500 ($2,000 X 25%).

A tax credit actually reduces your income tax by the stated amount of the credit. So, in the example above we used a value of $2,000. A tax credit would of that amount would reduce your taxes by $2,000. Easy, peasy. There are some other considerations, so consult your tax preparer.

The plug-in vehicle income tax credit phases out for a manufacturer’s vehicles over the one-year period beginning with the second calendar quarter after the calendar quarter in which the 200,000th of their plug-in vehicles has been sold. Qualifying vehicles from that manufacturer are eligible for 50 percent of the credit ($3,750) if purchased in the first two quarters of the phase-out period and 25 percent ($1,875) of the credit, if purchased in the third or fourth quarter of the phase-out period.  After that point, the credit goes away completely.

Who are the three manufacturers that will be affected first? They are Nissan ( maker of the Leaf), Tesla Motors (maker of the Roadster, Model S, Model X and Model 3) and General Motors, (maker of the Cadillac ELR & CT6, Chevy Volt, Bolt EV and Spark EV).

So, in planning your taxes, if you want to make a purchase in 2017 and collect the tax credit when you file in 2018, you need to be working on that purchase now. If you want to order exactly what you want, it’s too late for a Tesla, since their waiting list is so long. For the current GM models, you should place your order no later than October 15th, as it usually takes eight weeks from order to delivery (depending on dealer allocation). Unfortunately, I do not know what the order cycle is for the newly redesigned Nissan Leaf.

If you want to make a purchase in 2018 and collect the tax credit when you file in 2019, you need to keep an eye on how the manufacturers are each progressing toward the 200,000 vehicle limit. As of last month, it shaped up like this:

  • Tesla Motors – 138,469
  • Nissan – 113,263
  • General Motors (Cadillac and Chevrolet) – 149,649

The Tesla numbers were based on estimates. I will endeavor, over the next year, to keep an eye on this and post my findings here.

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.