With the Model 3 still all the excitement in the automotive world, Tesla's soon-to-be leading competitor in the affordable EV space is lashing out in a bid for attention. Per USA Today, GM Vice President of Global Propulsion Systems Dan Nicholson told the SAE World Congress (an annual confab of automotive engineers, designers, and executives) that Chevy doesn't need your money to make the Bolt:
I am very proud of the Chevrolet Bolt that's coming out, which will be the first to market as a long-range affordable battery electric vehicle. It will have more than 200 miles of range and it will be in production by the end of 2016, so it's not necessary to put down $1,000 and wait until 2018 or sometime after that.
Of course, there's more to it than the shallow argument of "ours will be made sooner so we don't need your money." Tesla and Chevy operate very different business models — the vast majority of Tesla vehicles are produced-to-order and only when ordered, while Chevy's dealership stock-centric delivery system relies on building a larger inventory so dealerships can have multiple cars on the lot. There's a bit of crossover between the two (Tesla is stocking a few cars at their stores for off-the-lot purchases and Chevy is more than willing to let you order the exact car you want), but by-and-large they're vastly different approaches to getting customers into cars.
Just in case the industry misunderstanding of Tesla wasn't deep enough, Nicholson decided to add a layer of irony on top:
GM's balance sheet is in pretty strong shape, so we don't need to take $1,000 of your money just to hold a spot.
Excuse me? GM is a company that just seven years ago was bailed out by the US federal government to the tune of $51 billion. And while it is true that GM has been a profitable company since, one of the most profitable in the nation, in fact, that comes on the face of having gone through a massive bankruptcy and restructuring, shuttering or selling several brands, closing 15% of their dealerships and a quarter of their factories, and shedding tens of billions of dollars in debt.
Tesla is, yes, a smaller company with a smaller balance sheet. They have roughly $1.2 billion in cash on hand and significant long term debt and liabilities to contend with (roughly $6.5 billion). And that's about what we'd expect from a young and growing automaker — they have enormous costs in their Fremont Factory and the Gigafactory and ramping up production to meet demand for the Model 3.
Which gets to the whole point of the $1000 reservations for the Model 3. It's not about raising money (though putting $325 million in the bank without selling a product is impressive), it's about securing interest. Chevy has an email sign-up for the Bolt, whereas Tesla wants you financially and emotionally invested in the Model 3. Sure, you can get your money back by asking, but people are legitimately excited for the Model 3 in a way that few are for the Chevy Bolt.
For comparison's sake, the 200-mile-range Chevy Bolt is set to start at $37,500 with production starting at the end of 2016, while the 215-mile-base-range Tesla Model 3 will start at $35,000 and start production at the end of 2017.