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Will the Chevy Bolt End Up a ‘Compliance Car’?

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2017 Chevy Bolt EV commercial

Former General Motors Executive Bob Lutz seems to have had a fairly dim view of EVs like the Chevy Volt and the upcoming Chevy Bolt, according to comments made in a roundtable panel discussion last year that were recently found and discussed by Green Car Reports. Basically, what Lutz said was that vehicles like the Volt, Bolt, and other plug-in and fuel cell vehicles are just “compliance vehicles”—that is, they are to be sold in low volumes in limited markets, selling just enough to meet California’s zero-emission sales rules.

Now, those comments were from last summer. Let’s talk about where General Motors was at that point.

The Chevrolet Volt was still in its first generation and sold in limited markets, with dwindling sales following the unveiling of the (much improved) second generation, which was slated to be released a few months after, but only in limited markets. The Volt was selling well, but was still being spanked by the sales of the Nissan LEAF.

Glow-in-the-dark Nissan LEAF painting

What’s the matter, Volt? GREEN with envy?

The Bolt, on the other hand, hadn’t reached production, as it was only revealed that February, and wouldn’t start production until at least the next year (at which point it would be released nationwide).

GM was only producing two other EVs at the time. First, there was the Spark EV, a very zippy but low-volume compact car sold in only three states: California, Oregon, and Maryland. This car came with a somewhat limited range of features (the higher trim only added better upholstery and the whole deal was only available with summer-only tires). Then, there was the Cadillac ELR Coupe, which, despite its excellent electric miles and luxury amenities, was largely passed over (possibly due to its $75,000 price tag), leaving it at a scant 659 units sold by July.

So really, at the time, it probably seemed like the GM EVs were doomed to compliance-car-dom.

But is that still true?

In the US, the Chevy Volt is being rolled out nationwide, and at the end of March had taken the title of best all-time plug-in sales from the LEAF.

2016 Volt


The Bolt is on its way, with its main competitor, the Tesla Model 3, bogged down in hundreds of thousands of preorders. Meanwhile, the low-selling ELR is getting the boot, and the Spark EV is set to follow it out the door as soon as the Bolt hits the market.

In addition, Green Car Reports reached out to Chevrolet asking whether the Bolt is a compliance car, and was told that the Bolt EV “will appeal to a number of customers interested in the electric-car space, and will do so for customers in all 50 states. As such, we can confidently say Bolt EV is not an exclusively ‘compliance play.’”

So, to synthesize all of that together, the Chevrolet Bolt may hold great potential as the first high-range, more affordable EV to hit the market. However, whether it ends up functioning as the catalyst to an EV revolution or as GM’s car to allow it to stay under CAFE regulations will have to be seen as sales figures begin to come back in.

News Sources: Green Car Reports, InsideEVs