General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM) will extend the current shutdown of its Orion, Michigan factory as the company tries to get its inventory under control. The Orion plant makes the all-electric Chevrolet Bolt and the subcompact Chevy Sonic.
The company attributed the shutdown to slow sales of the Sonic (down 37% year over year for the first half of 2017), according to a report at Reuters, and expects to maintain its annual production plan for the Bolt.
Bolt sales through June totaled 7,592 units, and days of inventory on the car rose from 104 to 111 in the month. The car first rolled out in California late last year and is expected to be on dealer lots in all 50 states by August. If GM sells 20,000 units this year that would be a noteworthy event, but the company seems unworried with the rising inventory numbers.
Earlier this month, Tesla Inc. (NASDAQ: TSLA) announced that the first Model 3 rolled off the company’s California production line. The Bolt and the Model 3 both carry an MSRP of around $36,000 MSRP and both are rated to get more than 200 miles on a single battery charge. But the similarities may end there.
Tesla probably has received more than 500,000 pre-orders for the Model 3, accompanied by a $1,000 refundable deposit with each order. The company hopes to ramp up production of all models to 500,000 by the end of next year. Most of those vehicles will be Model 3s. For buyers ordering a Model 3 today, the estimated delivery date is early 2019.
Could the Chevy Bolt snatch some of the backlog away as Tesla works through its Model 3 order book? Judging by the lack of effort GM has shown so far in promoting the Bolt, Tesla probably doesn’t have anything to worry about.
GM, however, is no doubt hoping it can nab some would-be Tesla buyers and that is why it is continuing to build the Chevy Bolt at its unchanged rate. Will that hurt Tesla? Not likely.
Tesla consumes all the oxygen in the electric vehicle market and even if GM were to spend insane amounts of money on marketing and promoting the Chevy Bolt, there is every likelihood that such a campaign would make no appreciable difference.
Consumers are buying (or at least ordering) thousands of the Model 3 because it sports the Tesla badge. Analyst Gene Munster of Loup Ventures likens the rollout of the Model 3 to the launch of Apple’s iPhone, “which proved to be the catalyst for the shift to mobile computing.” The entire electric vehicle industry will be judged by the success or failure of the Model 3.
The best that GM and other electric car makers can hope for in the near term is to pick up whatever scraps drop off Tesla’s table. There is little doubt that electric car adoption is a long-term game, though, and GM has more ammo to play that long game. But the company has to stay close, avoid making big mistakes, and be ready to move quickly if Tesla stumbles.