GM CEO Mary Barra: Chevy Bolt EV is Built for Everyone

January 7, 2016, 2:23 AM UTC

The Chevrolet Bolt EV, General Motors’ latest electric car, is CEO Mary Barra’s response to all the critics who have attacked the giant automaker for being slow and antiquated.

The company took the Bolt EV from concept to production-ready in only 12 months. By this time next year, the hatchback will be in full production and sitting in showrooms across the U.S.

This is lightening speed for a major automaker like GM. It often takes several years for a car to reach full production (if it comes out at all).

“This isn’t some science project or concept that’s years away,” Barra said during a keynote speech Wednesday at CES, the annual consumer electronics industry trade show in Las Vegas. “The Bolt EV will be in production this year.”

She said that GM’s size, which has been viewed as negative in the past, allows it to build an affordable, connected electric vehicle for everyone. GM has the dealerships and manufacturing capability that recent entrants to the industry don’t, she added,

“We can use our scale to bring new technologies to more people faster,” Barra said.

Barra clearly felt vindicated by the Bolt, and managed to add in a few thinly veiled jabs at Tesla Motors, the luxury all-electric automaker that has been seen as a leader in the space.

“We believe strongly in the dealer model and the tremendous value our customers derive from neighborhood dealerships,” she said. Unlike some electric car customers, Bolt EV customers never have to worry about driving to another state to buy, service or support their vehicle.”

Tesla, which doesn’t use dealers, is banned from selling directly to consumers in several states.

“Commitments from traditional car makers to build electric vehicles advance Tesla’s mission to accelerate the advent of sustainable transportation. We hope to see all those additional zero-emission vehicles on the road,” Tesla spokeswoman Alexis Georgeson said in an emailed statement.


The all-electric vehicle, which Barra introduced today at CES, will have a 200-mile range and cost around $30,000 after government clean energy incentives. The battery pack is incorporated into the car’s chassis and is mounted beneath the passenger cabin, which allowed designers to give the Bolt a flat interior floor. The battery will reach an 80% charge in around 60 minutes—or about twice as long as Tesla Motors’ supercharger.

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On the inside, there’s a 10.2-inch touchscreen and inductive charging so you can power up your smartphone wirelessly. It will also be equipped with OnStar 4G LTE, which turns the Bolt EV into a Wi-Fi hotspot. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a platform that lets drivers integrate their smartphone with a vehicle’s dashboard, is standard. (Look for Fortune’s full review of the car tomorrow). The connectivity let GM add a gaming feature in the car, which lets owners compete with other EV drivers for eco-bragging rights on things like miles per charge and highest MPG equivalent.

GM Chevrolet Bolt EV interior

GM (GM) included several features in the Bolt that will allow for car-sharing. For instance, there’s low-energy Bluetooth system that detects the drivers’ smartphone as they approach the car. The car is also equipped with a new app called MyChevrolet Mobile that lets the driver see the vehicle charge status, set the cabin temperature and remotely start the car.

Using the app, the driver could leave the keys locked inside the car and send someone an encrypted key so they could use their own smartphone to unlock the car. Boom: car-sharing. Earlier this week, GM said it invested $500 million in ride-hailing company Lyft.

WATCH IT: GM invests in Lyft

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“Down the road, the connectivity that allows us to offer features like gamification will one day help us offer other technologies and transportation solutions that customers will demand,” Barra said. That could be car-sharing apps, new ownership models, automated driving, and one day, self-driving cars.

As Barra put it: “It’s more than a car, it’s a platform.”

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