Will Chevy Bolt choices spark sales?

DETROIT — At first glance, it can be tough to see much difference between the Chevrolet Bolt EV and its new crossover variant, the Bolt EUV, even though General Motors says the two electric vehicles have no exterior sheet metal in common.

But GM thinks it has differentiated the EUV from its smaller sibling just enough to address some of the shortfalls that have held back the Bolt EV. The EUV is 6 inches longer and has 3 inches of additional rear legroom, a change Bolt EV customers had requested, said Jesse Ortega, the vehicles’ executive chief engineer. According to GM’s specs, the front seats and cargo areas are almost exactly the same size.

It’s a strategy that has worked for GM recently with the Buick Encore and Encore GX and the Chevy Trax and Trailblazer. Chevy also has successfully sold the Tahoe alongside the longer-wheelbase Suburban for a quarter century. In each case, the automaker effectively divided one segment between two entries from the same brand.

“With the continued shift away from cars, when you look at the segments … in these broad groups, there is room at the two ends of the spectrum for vehicles that are technically in the same segment but go after a slightly different buyer. This is the fragmentation of the marketplace,” said Jeff Schuster, president of global forecasting at LMC Automotive. “You’re trying to give consumers what they want and keep them in your brand.”

The Trailblazer and Trax held a combined 15.8 percent of the subcompact crossover segment in 2020, compared with 13.7 percent share for the Trax alone in 2019, according to the Automotive News Research & Data Center. And the Encore GX — 3 inches longer and at least $1,000 more — already supplanted the Encore as Buick’s top seller in 2020, its first year on the market.

Despite their similarities, Chevy believes it can sell more of the Bolt EV and EUV combined than it could have sold with the car version alone, said Steve Majoros, vice president of Chevy marketing. The EUV starts at $2,000 more than the freshened EV, though both have lower sticker prices than the 2021 Bolt EV.

“If you want something a little smaller, more on the value side, the revamped Bolt EV is perfect for you. If you had been in a Bolt EV and maybe you want something bigger or different, we’ve got that great variant for you as well,” Majoros said.