National Rollout Planned to Boost Sales
Over the past year or so, anyone with an interest in affordable and practical electric vehicles has been following the upcoming showdown between Chevrolet and Tesla. With both the Bolt EV and Model 3 priced around $35,000 retail—and both with an all-electric range of well over 200 miles—the expectation was that the electric car market was about to move to another, much more popular level.
While no one has yet taken delivery of a Tesla Model 3, those lucky enough to live in California and Oregon have had the opportunity to own a Chevrolet Bolt since last December. For the rest of the country–excluding some states which have now also seen the Bolt in showrooms–deliveries of the Bolt were scheduled for late 2017.
However, recently General Motors announced that it will accelerate its delivery timeline, and confirmed that the Bolt will be available nationwide in August of this year. This is good news for EV consumers across the country, but begs the question as to why GM accelerated its release of the Bolt.
We got ours! Coming soon to a neighborhood near you
The answer could be twofold. According to GM’s sales numbers reported in Automotive News, the company has sold less than 6,000 cars in the first five months of 2017; far from keeping on track with their goal of 25,000 cars by the end of the year (they also delivered fewer than 1,000 late in 2016).
The new August timeline also comes much closer to the first deliveries of Tesla’s Model 3, which should begin in July (though early models are reportedly only going to employees) and for which the hype has already hit a fever pitch with every siting broadly covered on social media and elsewhere. For the first five months of the year the Bolt is the best-selling pure EV not named Tesla, lagging the two full-size Tesla’s by several thousand sales, according to figures compiled by Hybridcars.com. Of course, Tesla has confirmed it has more than 370,000 folks who have sent in $1,000 to reserve a Model 3 and it has ambitious plans to produce as many as 400,000 in 2018. The auto industry has plenty of skeptics who think those numbers are a pipedream, but Tesla is building a reputation for delivering on its promises, albeit sometimes late.
Whether the accelerated rollout is the result of slow sales or a move to compete more directly with the release of the Model 3, consumers win with access to the electric we at Clean Fleet Report love enough that one staffer has already leased his own.
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New Powerplant Boosts Fuel Economy & Torque
For 2018, the Buick LaCrosse will expand its engine options and add a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with a side of light electrification. The new powerplant will combine a small electric motor with the new 2.5L engine in order to increase fuel efficiency as well as torque.
It may be mild, but eAssist hybrid system delivers big mpg boost
According to Buick, the new eAssist hybrid system will have a 19 percent increase in city fuel economy compared to the LaCrosse’s V-6, its former base engine. It will use a compact lithium-ion battery pack to provide benefits such as torque-assisted launch, regenerative braking and smoother stop/start. That should be good for a four mpg boost to last year’s 21 mpg city. The old V-6 was rated at 21 city/31 mpg highway/25 combined. The LaCrosse also will add a new nine-speed automatic transmission.
The mild hybrid eAssist system also increases torque by nine percent, while the battery pack is compact enough to maintain fold-down rear seats and ample trunk space.
This new version of Buicks eAssist system combines a compact electric motor and an advanced 24-cell air-cooled 0.45kWh lithium-ion battery pack. It’s based around GM’s Motor Generator Unit (MGU), which replaces a traditional alternator and acts as an electric motor to assist the engine when needed.
The MGU will also act as an electric generator, drawing from energy stored in the lithium-ion battery pack, as well as play a pivotal role in the system’s other features (assisted launch, regenerative braking and stop/start).
Despite the introduction of the new, more sophisticated power plant, the base price of the 2018 LaCrosse will be lowered to $30,490.
Sales Drop Spells the End of Lexus’ Best-Selling Hybrid
For most of us, six years does not seem all that long. Over the past six years, however, the automotive industry has seen a rapid advancement in hybrid and electric technology. Six years ago the Tesla Model S was still a year away from release, and the second generation Prius was only a year into production.
This is us leaving
It was at that time that Lexus first released their CT200h; a car that would change the luxury-hybrid segment. Six years later, however, the CT is still very much the same car, and no longer changing the game.
Since its release in 2011, the Lexus CT200h has been the brand’s entry-level offering for anyone looking to dip a toe into the luxury segment. It was recently announced, however, that the hybrid hatchback will not return to the U.S. market for the 2018 model year.
Competition Leaves Lexus in the Dust
Despite its original success, Lexus sold just 8,903 copies of the CT200h in 2016, a fraction of the sales numbers seen by other entry-luxury models. Competitors Mercedes-Benz and Audi sold 25,792 copies of the CLA-class and 31,538 copies of the A3, respectively, during the same time frame.
2017 Lexus CT 200h drives off scene
Competition from other brands has not been the only problem for the CT200h. Based on the old Prius platform, the CT began to look a bit outdated in recent years; especially when compared to its younger cousin, the third-gen Prius, whose EPA estimated 52 mpg combined far outclassed the CT’s EPA estimated 42 mpg. Sales in the first five months of 2017 were down more than 10 percent from the previous year. Even with that drop, it was the best-selling Lexus hybrid.
For those concerned with the disappearance of the CT200h, fear not. A new subcompact crossover called the UX will arrive soon, and a likely hybrid model will replace the outgoing hatchback.
For now, though, buyers looking for an entry-level Lexus will have to turn to the NX crossover or shop around for the last CTs still on the lot.
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Bolt Prices Are All Over the Map
With an all-electric range of 238 miles and a price tag right around $35,000, the new Chevrolet Bolt EV shouldn’t have any competition in its price range; surprisingly its biggest competitor is itself.
Just seven states into Chevrolet’s incremental rollout of the new Bolt, some dealerships, especially those in California, are already marking down prices in order to move their product, according to the trade publication Automotive News.
Some, like Clean Fleet Report‘s Steve Schaefer, found their Bolt deal
As a quick reminder for those of you that may not know, almost all auto dealerships are independently owned and operated. This creates competition between nearby dealerships as they work to keep their sales numbers up.
This competition greatly contributes to the varying prices of the Bolt at different dealerships in the seven states currently selling it. One San Francisco Bay Area dealership, for example, was advertising an equally equipped Bolt for $5,198 less than another dealership only 40 miles away.
Add the $7,500 federal tax incentive a
nd $2,500 California rebate that the Bolt qualifies for (which may or may not be available depending on state funding priorities), and buyers could effectively pay less than $25,000 for the base model; well below the $30,000 number General Motors was said to be looking for as the car’s target price. GM is not offering any incentives to consumers or dealers on the new car, other than discounted financing.
Sales Prices Are Rising
According to TrueCar, the average amount consumers paid below sticker price grew from $1,400 in January (a 3.4 percent discount from MSRP) to $2,200 in February (a 5.3 percent discount).
In some areas, however, dealerships are doing the opposite and marking up prices of the Bolt to as much as $5,000 above sticker price. Most of these dealerships are in rural areas and have less competition from other dealerships.
These price mark-ups could also be the result of a new market product meeting old market sales strategy. This is why Tesla Motors has, controversially, refused to franchise its dealerships and sells its product directly to the customer, albeit in limited retail outlets.
“Existing franchise dealers have a fundamental conflict of interest between selling gasoline cars, which constitute the vast majority of their
The 2017 Chevrolet Bolt is making its mark in the market
business, and selling the new technology of electric cars,” Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors, wrote in a 2012 blog post explaining his company’s retail model. “It is impossible for them to explain the advantages of going electric without simultaneously undermining their traditional business.”
The contrast here is that General Motors. For all of its efforts through bankruptcy and downsizing, it remains with more dealers than needed in many markets. So, rather than competing with other makes, they often find themselves battling with each other over discounts on the same vehicles.
The bottom line is that as hot as the Chevy Bolt is (leapfrogging into the top eschalon of EV sales), there are deals to be had.
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More Plug-ins Are Coming
The new Kia Niro will get a plug-in cousin
The 87th International Geneva Motor Show (in March 2017) saw a huge variety of new cars being showcased, from concepts to upcoming production cars. Here at Clean Fleet Report, a few of the upcoming production cars caught our eye because they will offer new heights in fuel economy.
Many of you are familiar with Kia’s Niro hybrid, but this year in Geneva, Kia unveiled its new Niro plug-in hybrid.
Important for this model is its new 8.9-kilowatt-hour (kWh) battery, which replaces the standard hybrid model’s 1.56-kWh battery. It promises to give the Niro PHEV an electric-only range of about 25 miles. This estimated range would keep the Niro PHEV competitive with one of its main rivals, the Toyota Prius Prime.
A Lexus Hybrid Flagship
Lexus sets its sights on Tesla
Lexus also revealed its new 2018 LS 500h luxury hybrid sedan, which looks identical to the standard LS 500, but features a V6 gasoline engine paired with two electric motors and a small lithium-ion battery. Total power is rated at 354 horsepower which is delivered through a multi-stage hybrid transmission that acts like a 10-speed gearbox. It will replace the LS 600h, which we reviewed last year.
Expected to compete directly with Mercedes-Benz and Tesla, the LS 500h appears to be a strong step forward for the Lexus luxury brand, which has been struggling to balance style and performance in recent years. Prices for the LS 500h have not yet been announced, however prices should start around the Tesla Model S base price of $70,000, a significant drop from the previous model.
Plug-in Power from Porsche
It is not very often that a twin-turbo V8 is featured on Clean Fleet Report, but Porsche gives us the opportunity with the unveiling of its Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid. The Turbo S E-Hybrid features a 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V8 engine and a 100-kilowatt electric motor mated to the gearbox via an electronic clutch. Overall power is stated as 680 horsepower with 627 pounds-feet of torque.
As a plug-in hybrid, the Turbo S E-Hybrid is able to cruise for up to 31 purely electric miles while in its “E-Power” drive mode. Power for the electric motor comes from a liquid-cooled 14.1 kWh lithium-ion battery which can be Level 2 recharged in six hours with the standard 3.6-kW onboard charger or around 2.4 hours with the optional 7.2 kW charger. Overall MPGe is rated at 81.1 when factoring in the full electric range.
Porsche combines hybrid technology with sports car power
Ford Offers Eco Power
While not an EV or a hybrid, Ford debuted its next generation Fiesta ST which features an all-new 1.5L three-cylinder turbocharged EcoBoost engine–the first three-cylinder motor for the Ford Performance division. Power output is rated at 197 hp, and 0-62 mph acceleration is announced at 6.7 seconds.
Even with the fuel efficient nature of a three-cylinder engine, the 1.5L EcoBoost comes equipped with cylinder deactivation, which shuts off one cylinder when it is not needed, increasing efficiency and reducing emissions. The new Fiesta ST will officially launch across European markets in early 2018.