The affordable EVs' factory will become an electric truck plant by 2024 with no public plans to shift the Bolts elsewhere.
January 2022 may mark the beginning of the end for the Chevrolet Bolt EV and Bolt EUV. Alongside a Tuesday announcement that General Motors will invest $7 billion in Michigan for EV and battery production, the automaker said the factory -- the Orion Township facility -- that builds the Bolt EV and EUV will transform into something new.
With $4 billion from the GM mothership, the plant in Orion will become the carmaker's second electric pickup truck factory and build the upcoming Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra EVs. In the automaker's announcement, it said production of the Bolt EV and EUV "will continue during the plant's conversion" and construction starts "immediately." Anything beyond 2024, when the reborn Orion plant fires up, is up in the air. A GM spokesperson declined to speak beyond today's announcement.
Beyond the omission of a new home for the Bolt siblings, the cars' platform dates back to old technology. Both EVs ride on what's known as the BEV2 platform, an architecture evolved from the automaker's Gamma 2 platform. In other words, there are ties to the past Chevy Spark, Aveo, Trax and Buick Encore, though BEV2 does support the skateboard design for flexibility. Yet, GM has since moved past BEV2 and all-in on its Ultium architectures for new-generation electric vehicles. No future EVs slated for North America will use the platform and instead all ride on the Ultium architecture. They include the automaker's upcoming electric trucks, the Cadillac Lyriq and more.
A separate point may underscore the need to move past the Bolt era. Last year, GM found itself intertwined in escalating recall campaigns for the affordable electric car. After a handful of unsuccessful fixes, the automaker announced it plans to replace every car's battery pack with a fresh unit to extinguish the possibility of battery fires. Although GM will not pay for the majority of the $2 billion recall (that financial burden falls on LG Chem, the battery supplier) the car has undoubtedly seen its reputation knocked for reliability and safety. GM last said it doesn't plan to restart Bolt EV and EUV production until the end of this month at the earliest as it sorts out the battery replacement campaign for some 140,000 cars. The replacement operation isn't a simple task, either. The job takes between 13 and 14 hours for one car.
It's unclear if the subcompact EVs ever started to turn a profit for the automaker, but widely publicized reports from 2016 showed the carmaker planned to lose $9,000 on every vehicle it sold in the name of cementing itself early on as an EV leader.
As the two EVs face their uncertain future, it appears GM has a better-suited replacement waiting as well. Earlier this month, GM revealed it will build a Chevy Equinox EV. Not only will its compact stature better suit North American drivers not keen on small subcompact cars, but it will also start around $30,000. Today's Bolt EV starts at $31,500 before destination charges. There's potential for GM to undercut or match the Bolt EV's price with a larger car to boot.
Simply put, as GM strives to sell only zero-emissions cars by 2035, it feels like time's up for the General's first modern entrants into the budding EV space.