General Motors announced plans on Tuesday to invest $4 billion in its Orion Township, Michigan plant to immediately switch over production to batteries and newer EV trucks like the Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra on its update Ultium platform. Left out in the cold in this announcement, however, is the very EV and EUV already built at Orion: the Chevrolet Bolt.
Updated January 31, 2022 5:00 p.m. EST - Our dirge for the Bolt was premature. GM is behind the little EV all the way.
You remember the Chevrolet Bolt, don’t you? You’re not like nearly 70 percent of EV customers polled last year who weren’t even aware of the Bolt’s existence. But the reason why the Bolt sticks out in your memory is likely not because the car was so desirable or innovative or attractive; it’s likely due to all the fires.
While 2021 was a rough year for a lot of us, the Chevy Bolt had a particularly tough time. We were hopeful in February of last year when Chevrolet unveiled the redesigned Bolt EV and EUV. It looked nice! And functional! And way more affordable than a Model 3! Even Tesla was a little worried about it, lowering prices in the face of this affordable little car.
Then the fires started. At least 16 vehicles caught fire, which led to a worldwide recall of every single Bolt EV and EUV. The fixes the company came up with involved temporary software updates which seriously reduced range, advising owners not to fully charge their Bolts or allow charge to fall below a certain percentage and eventually just saying screw it and replacing the whole battery. GM even offered to buy back Bolts from disgruntled owners.
It didn’t help the Bolt’s reputation when NHTSA came out and advised owners not to park in a garage or too close to homes or other cars, due to fire risk. A few months later, GM was advising owners to take the same precaution. GM planned to lose $9,000 on every Bolt sold, but that number is probably much higher now. By August, GM had paid out $800 million in Bolt recall costs, with battery maker LG eating up a cool $1.9 billion to replace the fire-prone batteries.
GM said in its announcement this week that production on the Bolt will continue during retooling at the Orion plant, which is slated to begin immediately and wrap up by 2024. But GM already announced in November of last year that Bolt production would be paused until 2022. By then, the factory will be halfway to building those money-making trucks. It’s hard to foresee a future where Bolt production really does pick back up. This move by GM seems less of a clean break up with the Bolt and more of a ghosting. You hate to see it, but at least the folks in Orion, Michigan, get to keep their jobs.