GM's Electric Bolt Slows as Tesla Model 3 Sales Pick Up Speed

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(Bloomberg) -- General Motor Co.’s Bolt electric car may be feeling some heat from Tesla Inc.’s Model 3, now that production of Elon Musk’s sedan is finally starting to ramp up.

Bolt sales fell 19 percent last month, according to Emmanuel Rosner, a Guggenheim Securities LLC analyst who’s seen numbers GM now shares with select third parties instead of in monthly public statements. After averaging almost 1,500 a month in the first quarter, deliveries dropped to a little more than 1,000.

“Hardcore EV enthusiasts are now more able to buy the Model 3 versus the Bolt with about the same budget,” Rosner said by phone Wednesday. “But I was still surprised by how weak the Bolt was.”

Bolt sales fell due to lack of inventory, according to GM spokesman Jim Cain. The Detroit-based company has roughly one Bolt in stock for every two of its dealers who sell the vehicle, he said.

“We were extremely tight on inventory” Cain said, citing record sales in December and a 42 percent gain in the first quarter. “That’s why we’re increasing production,” which takes time due to battery supply constraints.

The Bolt, which starts at $37,495 and goes 238 miles on a charge, positioned GM as the first major automaker to offer a long-range battery-powered car at close to the average price consumers pay for new vehicles. The Model 3 starts at $35,000 and can go as much as 300 miles between plugging in.

Almost half-a-million people put down $1,000 deposits on the Model 3. Tesla is finally is beginning to clear manufacturing bottlenecks and delivered 8,180 of the sedans in the first quarter, making it the best-selling electric car in America.

Here are other GM sales figures Rosner provided:

  • Deliveries of Chevrolet Silverado pickup jumped 19 percent last month, thanks in part to rich incentives to battle Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV. The Italian-American automaker is also discounting its Ram trucks to clear out inventory and make way for a redesigned model. “We are concerned that weaker pricing could make it harder for GM North America to improve margins in coming quarters,” Rosner said.
  • GM is defending its turf in large sport utility vehicle segments, as Ford struggles with shortages of its redesigned Expedition and Lincoln Navigator. A $10,000-off discount offered to 2016 Cadillac Escalade owners toward a new one appears to have paid off -- sales of the main Escalade jumped 20 percent, while the ESV version gained 16 percent. GMC Yukon XL and Chevrolet Suburban deliveries soared 50 percent and 34 percent.
  • Total sales for GM fell 2.7 percent. On a brand-by-brand basis, Cadillac increased 6 percent, Chevrolet gained 0.4 percent, GMC dropped 10 percent and Buick declined 16 percent.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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