Eight months after General Motors launched the Chevrolet Bolt, the all-electric CUV generally has been well-received, winning multiple awards and, for the most part, keeping pace with sales targets.
Whether the market is ready for the Bolt, which went on sale earlier this month; whether customers consider its advertised 238-mile (383-km) range sufficient to alleviate anxiety; and whether it can be sold without subsidies all are issues to be resolved over time.
But one fact is indisputable: GM nailed the model’s December 2016 launch at its Orion Assembly Plant in southeastern Michigan.
An early August walk through the plant reveals half of daily output are Bolts (more than 100, a fraction of them being Ampera-e models sold under the Opel brand in European markets). The other half – also more than 100 units – are gasoline-engine-powered subcompact Chevrolet Sonics, both 4-door sedans and 5-door hatchbacks.
Both models move down the line in sequence – first a Bolt, then a Sonic, then another Bolt, and so on – through the course of the plant’s 8-hour shift.
Yves Dontigny, the Bolt’s production-launch manager, says the operation is seamless. A close look at the assembly process seems to back him up.
For one thing, the battery pack and fuel tank are installed at the same station with no bypasses on the chassis line. Further down the line comes the “marriage” of the powertrain, both gasoline and electric, to the cars.
“Just like any other powertrain,” Dontigny explains, “the electric-drive unit is installed on the same line as the Sonic’s internal-combustion engine. The challenge was how to package the unit so as not to require a parallel or separate line.”
Demonstrating how the production and engineering teams did their jobs, two line workers attach the battery or gas tank – whichever model, Bolt or Sonic – comes to their zone, with 10 fasteners.
Further down the line, another two workers attach the driveline, this time with 12 fasteners (six on each side), engaging in virtually the same process regardless of whether it’s a Sonic or a Bolt.
The only Bolt-specific assembly operation is filling the EV’s high-voltage electronic module with coolant.