Chevy Bolt EVs on way to California for first sales

Melissa Burden
The Detroit News

The first shipments of 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EVs are on their way to California, one of the first two states to receive first builds of the all-electric crossover slated to get 238 miles of range, General Motors Co. confirmed.

The first Bolt EVs are slated for California and Oregon and initial sales are expected by the end of the year, a Chevrolet spokeswoman said. The five-door vehicle starts at less than $30,000 after factoring in a $7,500 federal income tax credit.

Bolt EV production has been underway at GM’s Orion Assembly Plant in Orion Township for at least a few weeks. On Tuesday, one Bolt for every three to four Chevrolet Sonics headed down the same assembly line in the plant. The plant’s goal on Tuesday was to build more than 300 Sonics and Bolt EVs. Production of one Bolt EV takes three days to complete.

A majority of Bolts that have been built so far have not shipped yet, as the company is focused on ensuring the vehicle’s quality is the highest it can be, Orion launch manager Yves Dontigny said.

Dozens of Bolt EVs on Tuesday were parked at the Orion plant and some have been trucked to GM’s Milford Proving Ground for validation and engineering review and analysis. GM says the extra quality inspections are part of GM’s typical vehicle launch process.

“We don’t want to end up with a recall situation,” Dontigny said.

Last month, the Bolt was honored as Motor Trend Car of the Year and Green Car of the Year. It’s also a finalist for the coveted North American Car of the Year, an award that will be presented next month at the North American International Auto Show.

“We’re still ramping up our production,” Dontigny said. “We’ve been meeting our quality metrics.”

Orion was idled as part of GM’s 2009 bankruptcy and was slated to close but it reopened in 2010 after the UAW agreed to significant labor concessions.

GM cut a second shift at the plant earlier this year because of slow sales of the Sonic and Buick Verano. Production of the Verano at the plant ended in October. GM no longer plans to sell the small sedan in the U.S.

Orion has about 1,000 hourly employees and some 1,150 total who build the Sonic and Bolt EV on one shift. The plant also is in pre-production for the Opel Ampera-e, the European version of the Bolt EV.

Chevy dealers in California eagerly are awaiting arrival of the first Bolts. Two California Chevy dealers say they each are waiting on orders for a dozen.

Bill Cumming, general manager of Ron Baker Chevrolet in National City near San Diego said Wednesday his order is supposed to be built this week. He expects the Bolts to arrive in the first two weeks of January and said initial orders usually take longer to arrive as the companies go through thorough quality checks.

“They’re all spoken for,” he said.

Bob Giarrusso, general manager of Putnam Chevrolet Cadillac in Burlingame, California between San Francisco and Palo Alto, said he has a couple of his allocated Bolts sold, but wanted some to be available for anyone to purchase. He expects to receive his shipment in early January.

“There’s a tremendous amount of interest about the car and people calling,” he said.

(313) 222-2319