Chevy Bolt vs Tesla Model 3: Tale of the Tape

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When General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM) began shipping copies of its all-electric Chevy Bolt to dealers early in 2017, the company said it expected to sell about 30,000 units for the year. On Wednesday, the company reported December sales of 3,227 and full-year sales of 23,297 units.

Tesla Inc. (NASDAQ: TSLA) introduced its Model 3 sedan late last summer and projected that it would be building the cars at a rate of 5,000 a month by the end of 2017. In the October quarter, Tesla shipped just 222 units, and when the company reported third-quarter results, CEO Elon Musk pushed out the 5,000-per-week goal until the end of the first quarter of this year. On Wednesday that production goal was pushed out again, to the end of the 2018 second quarter.

Tesla delivered 1,550 Model 3s in the fourth quarter, with another 860 in transit to customers. All told, the company produced 2,425 Model 3 sedans in the fourth quarter.

Tesla’s ace in the hole in the competition with the Chevy Bolt is the massive number of consumers who have paid a $1,000 deposit to reserve a Model 3. Even if Tesla hits its full production goal of 20,000 a month by the end of this year (doubtful), some of the 400,000 customers who paid their deposits won’t get their car for about two years.

Both cars benefit from the recently passed tax legislation, which maintained the federal incentive payment of $7,500 for an all-electric car like the Model 3 and the Bolt. With the federal credit, the basic Model 3 sells for under $30,000 and the basic Bolt sells for right around $30,000.

It’s difficult to tell how hard GM is promoting the Chevy Bolt and whether more promotion would result in higher sales. After all, Americans are not buying cars anymore. They’re buying gasoline-powered pickups, sport utility vehicles and crossovers, so that’s what automakers are building and promoting.

GM sold more than 3 million cars in the United States last year (that’s way less than the 4.4 million the company sold in China) while Tesla delivered more than 101,000. Tesla’s long-term goal is to build 500,000 cars a year, which is less than the total number of Chevy Silverado pickups GM sold last year.