It’s spring, 2017. Tesla dominates every automotive website and is becoming a household name even among non-enthusiasts. Everyone is talking about the Gigafactory, and the imminent Model III and its very large customer waiting list. Along comes the Chevy Bolt. It’s available already. No waiting around for that hyped Model III. You can have a cheap-ish Chevy with good range right now, for about the same price. GM is publicly patting itself on the back for beating Tesla to the punch. Yes, GM is the real innovator ’round these parts. The General began that PR push in 2015 and hasn’t let up.
But here’s the question of 2017: Would you rather have a Chevy immediately or a Tesla very soon, for about the same money? What about your friends/relatives/coworkers? Would they pull the trigger and get a Bolt instead of waiting a few months for a Tesla?
If you can’t imagine yourself or anyone you know choosing a GM product over a similarly-priced, similarly-timed, American-made Tesla, that should tell you something about GM’s ability to poach Tesla customers. Here’s the reality: Assuming the Bolt does indeed narrowly beat the Model III to market, it will function merely as an opening act, as in a rock concert. It will prime the public for the new wave of affordable, long-range EVs. The beneficiary of all this? Tesla, the company whose products are to electric vehicles what Kleenex is to facial tissue, Vaseline is to ointments and Prius is to hybrids. (By the way, the Honda Insight beat the Prius to market in the US by seven months. Yes, the now-extinct Honda Insight.)
So thank you, General Motors, for deciding to warm up the audience. Perhaps someday you’ll become the headliner.