Just seven states into Chevrolet's gradual rollout of the Bolt EV, some dealerships already are discounting the car by several thousand dollars, even as others demand a markup above sticker price to take advantage of early demand.
The pricing disparity -- one dealer in Southern California was advertising a Bolt last week for $4,439 less than an identically equipped car at a store 5 miles away -- shows what happens when a new kind of vehicle meets a sprawling, old-line retail network that's only beginning to feel out the market for it.
The Bolt, with a 238-mile battery range, has no direct competition in its price range at the moment, but its novelty has a flip side for Chevy dealers who have to battle one another for a pool of customers that's still relatively small. The dealerships also have more than a dozen other nameplates to sell, many of them more lucrative than the Bolt, which needs no oil changes and little other routine maintenance.
"We've been really aggressive in getting it out there and getting people's attention," said Marty Greenwood, managing partner of Greenwood Chevrolet in Hollister, Calif. The dealership, about 100 miles south of San Francisco, is advertising discounts of $2,000 to $3,000 on its Bolt inventory this month.
"We're here to sell cars, and we're in a smaller town, so we need to be a little bit more aggressive," Greenwood said. "We just watch the market and what's going on out there. What is the magic number to move the vehicle?"
California dealerships, which got the Bolt first, have been the quickest to mark it down. Fremont Chevrolet, which delivered the first three Bolts to retail customers in mid-December, raised the discounts advertised on its website from $2,000 in February to $3,000 in March. Another Bay Area dealership, Dublin Chevrolet, listed $3,000 discounts. Both were promoting three-year leases starting at about $260 a month, with $3,995 due at the time of sale.
Combined with the $7,500 federal tax incentive and $2,500 California rebate that the Bolt qualifies for, buyers there can effectively pay less than $25,000 for the base model, well below the $30,000 threshold that General Motors sought to meet with the car.
Nationally, the average amount consumers paid below sticker price grew from $1,400 in January, a 3.4 percent discount, to $2,200 in February, a 5.3 percent discount, according to TrueCar.