Electric in Detroit

“Chevrolet believes electrification is a pillar of future transportation and needs to be affordable for a wider segment of customers.”—Mary Barra, GM CEO



Two important things happened the week of January 12, and I don’t mean the fact that gas hit a national average price of just over two bucks a gallon.

In fact, these two things happened in the face of cheap gas.

One was that Chevrolet revealed the Bolt concept.

The other was that Elon Musk came to town.

The week of January 12, of course, included the Press Preview Days for the North American International Auto Show.  Or, as my friend Peter DeLorenzo of Autoextremist.com insists, the Detroit Auto Show.

The Bolt is a compact sedan with a high roofline.  It was designed by the GM studio in Australia.

Oh, and it is an electric vehicle (EV).

An electric vehicle that has a range of +200 miles.

And they figure that it will cost about $30,000—including a federal $7,500 tax credit—when it goes into production.

While production hasn’t been confirmed, the word is that it is likely to be in 2017.

Said Mary Barra, GM CEO, “The Bolt EV concept is a game-changing electric vehicle designed for attainability, not exclusivity.  Chevrolet believes electrification is a pillar of future transportation and needs to be affordable for a wider segment of customers.”

(It should be noted that the Nissan LEAF has a starting MSRP of $29,860 including $850 destination and handling—and that’s before any tax credits or rebates.  However, it has a range of about 80 miles, not over 200, but that’s right now; who knows what 2017 holds.)

Of the design, Ed Welburn, vp of GM Global Design, said, “No compromises were made when it came to aesthetics and the elements that contribute to the Bolt EV concept’s range, resulting in a unique proportion that’s sleek, efficient, and obviously a Chevrolet.”

As you can see from the accompanying image, “sleek” doesn’t necessarily mean low and lean like a Stingray.

What was interesting about the Bolt announcement is when it occurred: Yes, auto shows are when you reveal concepts, especially a show like the one in Detroit, but it was also when Chevy was revealing the production 2016 Volt (with 50 miles of all-electric range), which is a big deal in and of itself).

Which leads me to think that GM is really serious about alternative powertrains, including EVs.

Now for Musk.

He spoke at the Automotive News World Congress.

What’s notable about that is that that event is whether the top-people in the auto industry speak, like Mary Barra, Sergio Marchionne of FCA and Joe Hinrichs of Ford.

With Tesla, Musk is in the club.

In his presentation he gave credit to companies like GM for the Bolt (even though he pointed out that the forthcoming Tesla Model X will have a starting price of $35,000, again before any credits).

He also emphasized the need to continue to work on alternative powertrains for vehicles.

Product planners must really be pulling their hair out as gasoline prices decline.

But to the extent that many vehicles nowadays are on global platforms, and as there are CO2 regulations in Europe that must be met, rather than MPG regulations, it still means that cars must become more fuel efficient, so developments have to continue.

Meanwhile, over at Cobo Center, Ram unveiled the Ram 1500 Rebel pickup and Ford the F-150 Raptor. . . .