The Chevy Bolt is crushing the Tesla Model 3

Hollis JohnsonThe Chevy Bolt.
  • Chevy sold over 3,000 Bolts in December.
  • Tesla will likely sell fewer Model 3’s than that for the entire fourth quarter.
  • If the sales trend continues, Chevy could be selling 5,000 Bolts every month by mid-2018.

Let’s be honest: While it was impressive that General Motors beat Tesla to market with an affordable, long-range electric vehicle, launching the Chevy Bolt in late 2015, few expected Tesla be threatened by GM.

That’s because Tesla had racked up an unprecedented 400,000-plus preorders for the Model 3, and it was assumed that once the car launched in mid-2017, it would rapidly outpace the Bolt in deliveries.

The outpacing hasn’t happened yet – far from it. Tesla will probably deliver only a few thousand Model 3’s for all of 2017. (We’ll find out this week, most likely, when the company releases its fourth-quarter and full-year numbers.)

Meanwhile, the Bolt has exceeded expectations, with almost 24,000 sales in total in 2017 and a fairly impressive 3,000-plus in December. If the trend continues, Chevy could see 5,000 monthly Bolt sales well before Tesla gets anywhere near that mark.

Tesla model 3TeslaThe Tesla Model 3.

I suspect some of those Bolt sales could be attributed to, ironically, Tesla. The Model 3 hyped up the idea of an affordable, long-range EV, pressured GM to get into the game, and now that the Model 3 is falling far short of Tesla’s goals, a significant number of buyers are choosing a Bolt.

This, unfortunately for Tesla, is what happens when demand can’t be matched by product. It’s a common occurrence in the auto industry; automakers suffer, for example, if they’re trying to sell passenger cars when everybody wants to buy compact SUVs. Obviously, it’s not as if people don’t want to buy the Model 3 – and I think there’s a good chance that the market is much bigger than the huge preorder tally would indicate.

For much of 2016, it was easy to scoff at all the “Tesla-killers” en route to market. That mountain of Model 3 preorders made the scoffing effortless. But with the Bolt a sudden success, a Tesla Model 3 killer, at least, is what GM has on its hands.


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