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Tesla Model 3 vs Chevy Bolt EV: GM says reservations holders will change their minds, but that’s wishful thinking [Op-ed]

Model 3 fascia 4

If you listen to the media and industry analysts, there’s an ongoing battle between the Tesla Model 3 and the Chevy Bolt EV over market shares in the midsize electric vehicle segment. That’s even before either car hits the market. I’ve already argued that it’s a nonexistent battle but it feels like we need to clarify further.

Over a year ago, I wrote “GM is making a $37,500 car that would sell for $20,000 if it wasn’t electric, while Tesla is trying to make a $35,000 car that would sell for $35,000 if it wasn’t electric,” and I still think it’s true today now that we know more about both vehicles.

Now that doesn’t mean that the Bolt will not sell, I actually think it will sell quite well, but I don’t think they will be stealing reservation holders from Tesla. Of course, GM disagrees. In reference to the ~400,000 Model 3 reservation holders, Steve Majoros, Marketing Director for Chevrolet, said last week: “I think we’ll get some of those people”.

GM is banking on the Bolt hitting the market a full year before the Model 3 to give reservation holders some time to reconsider.

I won’t go into the details of each vehicle since aside from a few thousand dollars and a few dozens of miles of range difference, most of the other differentiating features would only matter based on the personal opinion or needs of the buyer.

Instead, I’ll ask GM to consider that Model 3 reservation holders are informed customers and they know a lot about Tesla. They have been following the company for a while and they are fairly well-informed. They have to be since they are basically loaning them $1,000 for more than a year or two. You’d want to know the company before doing that.

If they have been following Tesla, they know that the company had problems with GM in the past. Maybe they know that GM backed efforts to ban Tesla’s direct sales model and forced them to go through third-party dealerships. In order to do that, GM used laws put in place to prevent established automakers like themselves to compete against their own dealers, but the automaker used them to prevent competition by lobbying regulators to apply them to new automakers, like Tesla, who never had a franchise dealership before.

Not only that, but GM CEO Marry Barra boasted about the fact that Tesla wasn’t allowed to serve its customers in certain states when launching the Chevy Bolt EV. She was basically taunting Tesla for a constraint her own company is actively trying to impose on consumers.

If Model 3 reservation holders agree with the idea of a free market or really just fair competition, they are not likely to forget that GM tried to make more difficult to them to buy or get service for the vehicle they reserved.

And we are not talking about other GM scandals that could be relatively fresh in the memory of Model 3 reservation holders, like the EV1 recall and crushing or the ignition switch scandal. But again, I still think that the Chevy Bolt EV will be a fairly successful vehicle, especially in ZEV states, but just not with Model 3 reservation holders.

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Avatar for Fred Lambert Fred Lambert

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