General Motors has revealed that it will put an end to the production of its electric Chevrolet Bolt by the end of 2023. The revelation was made by the company’s CEO Mary Barra while discussing first-quarter earnings with investors. Chevy Bolt is one of the most affordable EVs in the U.S. market and makes up a large proportion of the company’s EV sales to date, together with the larger Chevy Bolt EUV.
As an alternative, GM will focus on the production of EVs that use a newer battery type called Ultium. This includes the upcoming electric Blazer and Equinox SUVs. The Michigan plant where the Bolt EUV and Bolt EV have been produced since 2016 will be retooled for the production of electric GMC Sierra and Chevy Silverado trucks planned for 2024.
GM has been using its Ultium architecture for its newer EVs including Cardillac Lyriq and GMC Hummer. The irony of the Chevy Bolt discontinuation is that it is coming at a time when the production and sales of the vehicle for mass market consumers is at record high—which has been the company’s original goal.
“When the Chevrolet Bolt EV launched, it was a huge technical achievement and the first affordable EV, which set in motion GM’s all-electric future,” said the company’s spokesman Cody Williams in a statement. “Chevrolet will launch several new EVs later this year based on the Ultium platform in key segments, including the Silverado EV, Blazer EV, and Equinox EV.”
Chevy Bolt’s starting price of about $27,500 makes it one of the few EVs under $30,000 in the U.S. market. A dozen battery fires punched a hole in the vehicle’s reputation and eventually forced a large recall in 2021. However, a combination of $7,500 tax credits and price cuts helped to boost demands in 2022.
Bolt owners are disappointed with the company’s decision
Following the announcement of Bolt’s discontinuation, many drivers of the brand have taken to the popular forum ChevyBolt.org to voice their disappointment. Many of them believed it was not a wise decision for GM to kill a brand that has won loyal followers for them.
“A moniker like the Bolt is very difficult to just spawn at will,” said one forum post. “People who are genuinely excited for the product are attaching brand loyalty to GM.”
For others like Peter van der Pas of Vallejo, California who purchased his Bolt EV early this year, the biggest concern is the disappearance of affordable small EVs in the U.S. market.
“All EV makers are abandoning the small hatchback market,” said van der Pas. “I’m almost 70 years old, and I’ve been buying small hatchbacks practically all my driving life. I really like that format because it’s very functional.”
When the Bolt is retired, GM’s EV roster will be made up of pricier and larger vehicles which include the GMC Hummer, the Cadillac Lyriq, and the Silverado truck. This fall, the automaker plans to introduce an electric version of the Equinox SUV with a modest size and a starting price of around $30,000.
“[GM needs to] bring lower-priced EVs like the Equinox to market at volumes similar to the Bolt so that car buyers have more access to affordable EVs,” said David Reichmuth, an engineer and clean-transportation analyst with the Union of Concerned Scientists non-profit.
GM continues aggressive investing in EV and battery plant
GM has revealed that through 2025, it will invest $35 billion globally in autonomous and electric vehicles. The company has set the goal of selling only EVs by 2035. The bulk of the company’s spending will be channeled to the battery plants in Ohio, Tennessee, and Michigan.
The Orion, Michigan facility that makes Bolts appears to be closed at the moment. However, Barra hinted that when it reopens and hits full production, the company’s headcount will nearly triple and give the company the capacity to produce 600,000 electric trucks every year. Ultimately, GM has set the target of making 1 million EVs every year in each of China and the U.S. as it tries to catch up with Tesla, the current leader in the industry.
The automaker’s first battery facility in Lordstown, Ohio is expected to reach maximum production capacity by the end of 2023. Its second plant in Tennessee will commence production in 2024. The construction of the third plant is ongoing in Michigan and is expected to start production in 2024 too.
GM and Samsung SDI to jointly build EV battery plant in the U.S. for $3 billion
GM and Samsung SDI revealed on Tuesday, April 25 that they have entered into a joint venture that will build an EV battery manufacturing plant in the U.S. worth more than $3 billion. This is an important step for the automaker as it expands its component suppliers.
The news is coming as South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol makes a state visit to Washington. The visit is the first by a South Korean leader to the United States in 12 years. Yoon was in the company of over 100 executives from South Korea’s biggest companies including Hyundai Motor Group Executive Chairman Euisun Chung and Samsung Electronics Executive Chairman Jay Y. Lee.
The joint plant between Samsung SDI and GM is expected to start operation in 2026 and will have a production capacity of 30 gigawatt hours (GWh), according to the statement from both companies. However, the location for the proposed plant from the joint venture is yet to be agreed upon.
When operational, the plant will produce high-nickel prismatic and cylindrical battery cells. GM wants to secure capacity for components through the diversification of its battery supply chain to support its electrification goals.
“With multiple strong cell partners, we can scale our EV business faster than we could, going it alone,” said GM executive Doug Parks.
GM already has a joint venture with LG Energy Solutions in the U.S. and has been investing to increase cell production with the South Korean battery maker. The company hopes to take advantage of its subsidiaries to benefit from the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act which was designed to boost domestic manufacturing.
According to a Reuters report in January, the proposed site for the fourth battery plant is in New Carlisle, Indiana. However, it is still likely that GM may reserve the site for a battery plant with another partner.