BUYERS GUIDE: Will Dealer Discounts Give the Chevy Bolt EV An Edge Over the Tesla Model 3?

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The Chevy Bolt EV is one of this year’s most exciting new models and buyers may already be finding discounts.


2017 will be the year that America finds out if range has been the problem with battery-electric vehicles all along. Two new relatively affordable, long-range battery-only models will become available across the U.S. this year and the Chevy Bolt is leading the way.  One interesting difference between the Bolt, and the as yet unreleased Tesla Model 3, is the disparity between sales models Tesla, Inc. and General Motors have adopted.

GM’s top-selling model, the Chevy Silverado, is being automatically discounted by over $11,000 off MSRP. That equates to a roughly 20% drop in price before negotiations even begin.

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GM uses dealerships, of course, and relies very heavily on discounting to promote its vehicles. Tesla, by contrast, is now legendary for its stance that it should sell all its vehicles directly to the public, with no middle-man, and with no paid advertising. One part of that unique sales model is that Tesla sells its luxury EVs at full sticker price. Tesla’s CEO, Elon Musk, went so far as to tell his employees, “There can never — and I mean never — be a discount on a new car coming out of the factory in pristine condition. This is why I always pay full price when I buy a car and the same applies to my family friends, celebrities, no matter how famous or influential.”

RELATED: How Will the Chevy Bolt Affect Sales Of Short-Range EVs?

The Chevy Bolt started out being sold by GM just in the target-rich environment of California at the very end of last year. In a bit of gamesmanship, Chevy’s first Bolt sales were in the hometown of Tesla’s factory. However, the plan all along has been to spread the Bolt next to the handful of states that emulate California’s mandates on zero emission vehicles, and then to sell the Bolt more broadly, perhaps in every U.S. state and in Canada. With about 2,600 Bolts now sold in the U.S., dealerships as far from California as Massachusetts are reporting they have the Bolt on hand. And more interestingly, some are already offering substantial discounts. The first one we spotted was in an e-mail from Drive Green, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ EV advocacy group. One dealer is offering up to $1,250 off a Bolt, with the requirement that the buyer accepts GM financing. This is a dealer discount, not to be confused with the additional $2,500 state rebate and the $7,500 federal tax deduction incentive. In total, discounts and incentives drop the price of this Bolt from $37,495 to just $26,245. That is a nice neat 30% discount.

The Tesla Model 3 is not a head to head match for the Chevy Bolt. Although Tesla promises that it will have a low starting point, we fully expect it to be priced higher than the Bolt once options like premium interior features and higher than base performance are added. Chevy’s Bolt looks to be a more Spartan vehicle that has just two trims. The example we gave above was a discount we spotted on the base LT trim. However, two dealers are discounting the higher-spec Bolt Premier trim as well.

As we head into the first year of the availability two rival affordable EVs with long range, how the vehicles are sold may be just as interesting to watch as how these new vehicles are accepted by the general public.

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