Apr 25, 2023 - Economy

GM eliminates the Chevrolet Bolt, but electric pickups and SUVs are still going strong

Illustration of a sad car. 

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Electric cars might not have much of a future — but electric pickups and SUVs are looking promising indeed.

Driving the news: General M0tors CEO Mary Barra said Tuesday that the automaker is discontinuing the Chevrolet Bolt — both the car version and the small utility version — and will revamp the factory where the Bolt is made to assemble electric trucks.

  • The company paired the announcement with news of a deal with Samsung SDI to build the automaker's fourth battery plant in this U.S. — this one costing more than $3 billion.

Zoom out: EV demand is surging, but consumers don't want to give up the extra legroom, cargo space and higher riding stance that they've grown accustomed to with big SUVs and pickups.

  • Hence why vehicles like the Bolt and the Nissan Leaf — one of the industry's EV pioneers — are no more.
  • Whereas GM has electric versions of the Silverado pickup, Blazer SUV and Equinox SUV on on the way.

The intrigue: The Bolt recorded its third straight quarter of record sales in the first quarter of 2023, according to GM.

  • But the vehicle's innards are rooted in older battery technology — not GM's brand-new Ultium system, which is cheaper and more powerful.
  • That gave GM more incentive to move on from the pure-electric Bolt, which itself was a successor to the semi-electric Chevrolet Volt, another passenger car.

🛻 Quick take: This is about profits. Pickups and SUVs make more money — and people buy more of them than passenger cars.

  • About two-thirds of overall U.S. vehicle sales are SUVs — and about 1 in 4 are pickups.
  • "When they ever turn a profit on EVs, those will have a bigger profit margin than the Bolt," Autotrader analyst Michelle Krebs tells Axios.

By the numbers: S&P Global Mobility projected that 10% of U.S. vehicle sales will be EVs in 2023, with that number rising to 20% in 2025.

  • Cox Automotive, owner of Autotrader (and Axios), is projecting 45% by 2030, Krebs says.

Worth noting: The word "pickup" (or its plural form) was mentioned 10 times on GM's earnings call Tuesday, while "SUV" was mentioned three times.

  • Total mentions of "car" or "cars": zero.

The bottom line: Pickups and SUVs are the future of electric.

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