How GM Plans to Boost Chevy Bolt EV Sales

Chevy Bolt EV
Chevy Bolt EV sales and exposure could get a boost from a new rental deal offered to Lyft drivers. | General Motors

While enthusiasm for the Tesla Model 3 remains high across the country world, you couldn’t quite say the same about the Chevrolet Bolt EV, the first model to appear in the affordable, 200-mile plug-in segment. General Motors’ answer to the burgeoning electric car revolution encounters a style, power, traction, and buzz deficit compared to the darling of future EVs. But according to a new report, GM has plans to boost Bolt EV exposure through ride-sharing partner Lyft.

A notice from TrendinTech (reported by InsideEVs) detailed the approach the General has for bringing the Bolt EV to the attention of new consumers. Following its national debut late in 2016, Lyft drivers would be able to rent a Bolt for $99 a week and 20 cents per mile through the Express Drive program, which provides short-term rentals for ride-share purposes. This deal applies for renters notching 40 rides or less and sounds great on paper, but it gets even better.

Source: GM
Express Drive offers Lyft contractors a way to rent GM electric cars at good prices. Source: General Motors

TrendinTech reports drivers who reach 65 rides or more will enjoy a free Bolt rental. (There was no word on what happens between 40 and 65 rides and whether the per-mile charge applies.) By the time the Bolt appears, GM and Lyft will already have significant data on how electric cars are playing in their ride-share fleet. The program incorporates electric vehicles this summer starting in San Francisco with Chevy Volt vehicles. Colorado and Los Angeles will get plug-in options in the fall.

There are two ways this could impact early Bolt sales. First, fleet demand would remain high for Lyft drivers, many of whom are on a waiting list for Express Drive vehicles. Second, GM could introduce its new plug-in to a wider audience.

Chevy Bolt EV interior
GM can use its strategic investment in Lyft to spread the word about the Bolt EV. | General Motors

Riding around in an EV is usually all anyone needs to become interested in the technology. The quiet drive character and quick acceleration are instantly recognizable, and this should get riders asking questions about the Bolt when they get picked up for their short trips. In this scenario, Lyft drivers become evangelists, assuming they master the art of daily driving a plug-in and are enamored with it to any extent.

Of course, the decision to incorporate EVs in the Colorado and California fleets is no coincidence. There is no larger market for electric cars than the Golden State and, even after HOV lane incentives phased out, other attractive incentives available. Meanwhile, Colorado’s purchase incentive is the most generous in the nation, capable of knocking $13,500 off the MSRP in some cases. (Nissan Leafs are huge bargains in this market.)

It’s easy to see the wheels turning in Lyft customers’ heads as they travel to a destination in a Bolt EV. As for drivers, having an incentive to get a free work vehicle almost ensures there will be enthusiasm for the Express Drive offer. GM’s soon-come EV may not have the buzz the Model 3 has, but its strategic investments give it a very useful partner to help boost Chevy Bolt sales in its debut year.

Connect with Eric on Twitter @EricSchaalNY