EconomyFinancialThe new Chevrolet electric arrives at $939,900, will it...

The new Chevrolet electric arrives at $939,900, will it surpass the Chinese electrics and the Volvo, Mercedes and BMW SUVs?

Chevrolet has returned to the electrification route with the arrival of the Bolt EUV , a larger and more technological evolution of its minivan-like Bolt hatchback, which first launched in Mexico in 2017.

The new model, which has the appearance and dimensions of a compact SUV, arrives in the Mexican market at a time when vehicle manufacturers, especially those that serve the mass market, are trying to expand their electric offerings.

Chevrolet was one of the pioneers in bringing electrification, along with Nissan, to the Mexican market. The American brand, owned by General Motors, launched an electric version of its Spark city car in 2014, but the lack of charging infrastructure and the price of the units – Spark EV cost 500,000 pesos while its gasoline version was worth a third. – limited the sale of the model in the country.

About a dozen units of the Spark EV were sold by the brand’s dealers, and the sale of the model was concluded quickly. Chevrolet stayed for almost five years with the Bolt EV as the only electric model available in Mexico, until its marketing ended last year, when the Bolt EUV was supposed to arrive.

But General Motors decided to pause the launch of the new electric SUV after an August 2021 recall of some 64,000 Bolt EV and EUV models that the manufacturer had delivered since the 2020 model year, due to a fire risk of the drums. In addition, it requested the revision, for the same problem, of another 9,340 Bolt units from the 2019 model year that had not been previously called.

These recalls were in addition to recalls made at the end of 2020 of nearly 70,000 Bolt EV models sold between 2016 and 2019.

Activities surrounding the launch of the Bolt EUV in Mexico were suspended for nearly nine months as General Motors grappled with the problem along with the cell supplier, LG Energy Solution, the battery arm of Korean manufacturer LG.

Batteries, a solved issue

After months of investigation, General Motors identified the cause of the problem: two different manufacturing defects that, when combined in a single battery cell, increased the possibility of a fire. One fault is a broken anode tab, the negative electrode piece that allows the cell to connect to a group of cells, or module, and then to the entire battery pack. The other is a pleated spacer, a thin sheet of nonwoven polymer that separates the anode and cathode, the company explained in a statement.

Héctor Villarreal, Vice President of Sales, Service and Marketing for Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean of General Motors, explained in an interview that only in the “very unlikely” case that the two defects were present in the same cell, did the possibility of a fire inside the affected cells.

Although the possibility was remote, “as a precaution”, General Motors called for review the 120 Bolt EVs that were sold in Mexico between 2017 and 2021, and asked its customers to wait while the cells that could potentially be affected were changed. , will limit the charge of the vehicle to a maximum of 80% of the battery, explained Teresa Cid, director of corporate communication for General Motors.

Approximately a dozen Bolt EV fires have been identified globally, but no injuries or deaths have been attributed to the problem. “It is important to clarify that in Mexico we never had any incident,” Villarreal said.

After scheduling the replacement of battery modules for 141,000 potentially affected models globally, including the 120 sold in Mexico, General Motors restarted production of the new Bolt EV and EUV in April at a plant in Michigan, United States. “The batteries were redesigned and the vehicles that we had here in tests we changed the batteries and we have everything ready,” Villarreal said this week. The Bolt EUV finally arrived at Mexican dealerships in May with a price tag of 939,900 pesos.

The price of the Bolt EUV, a challenge to position it in Mexico?

When General Motors launched the first Bolt EV to the Mexican market in 2017, the electric vehicle offer was counted on the fingers of one hand. But now it is different. In the last three years, some twenty 100% electric models, of all sizes, segments and prices, have reached the Mexican market.

General Motors did not share a sales estimate or the market share it seeks to achieve with its new Bolt EUV in Mexico, but the challenge it faces to position its new model, whose autonomy is around 400 kilometers per charge in the most optimal conditions, is big. Bolt EV is right in the middle of an electric offer that starts with the E10x – a city car from the Chinese Jac for less than 500,000 pesos – and reaches the Porsche Taycan for 3.4 million pesos.

But in the middle, there are several electric SUVs that are around a million pesos, such as the Mercedes-Benz EQA for 1.2 million or the Volvo XC40 Recharge for 1.3 million, which could make noise in the consumer’s head when deciding on a electric model of a million pesos.

“Price is an important factor, but I think we also have to see the benefit of the operating cost (maintenance, electricity costs, tax payments), which in the case of the Bolt EUV is very competitive,” said Villarreal. General Motors, however, did not provide estimates of the savings that its model can generate by using electricity instead of gasoline.

In the Mexican market there is nothing prescribed. The Porsche Taycan, despite being the most expensive model available in the Mexican market, was positioned in 2021 as the best-selling electric car in the country, followed by the Jac J7 . Beyond the price, consumers of this type of model seem to value, at least for now, the driving experience of the vehicles and the benefits, in savings and daily circulation, that they provide.

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