Being "lucky" enough to have 1 of the 140,000 or so Chevrolet Bolt EVs involved in General Motors massive battery recall has reinforced a few things to me that I think we all know to be true about big business in America, but once in awhile we need a little reminding. I purchased a new 2019 Chevy Bolt in September 19' after testing one out for a couple weeks as part of Lyft's (predatory) vehicle rental program.
Let me say a couple things unequivocally to begin with here, less you think I'm just going to spew 100% vitriol in the direction of GM and be sour grapes about this whole thing. The Chevy Bolt is a GREAT car. Not a good car. A GREAT car. It has received excellent reviews across the automotive world in it's 5 years of production, with most of it's naysayers nit picking at things that have nothing to do with how the car performs, or the cost of running it. Some find it ugly. That's subjective, I don't think it's either ugly or stunning. Some complain about seat comfort, but I find a firmer seat to actually be more supportive then some of these mushbutt seats you find in other entry level cars. Though you wouldn't expect to put a lot of money in to a newer car, I have put 55,000 miles or so on mine and I haven't put 5 cents in to it. All I have done is walk outside, get in, push the button and off I go. To me, that's worth everything.
I am a somewhat special use case when it comes to the Bolt. Though Lyft did offer the Bolt as a rental option in a few major markets, I would hazard a guess that less than 1 out of 100 Bolts ever made have been used in a full-time rideshare capacity. This car was my everyday business vehicle from the time I purchased it in September of 19' through the beginning of the battery recall in November of 20'. During that time I put approximately 45,000 miles on Boltsy ferrying the good people of Seattle to and fro. The car performed splendidly, with the my Shock Yellow color (available only in 19') serving as a joyful beacon for my passengers amongst a sea of drab, boner-deflating grey/silver Priuses.
The Chevy Bolt is arguably the best car ever made for an urban environment. I'm pretty familiar with cars, and I would challenge someone to suggest a car more suited to city driving than the Bolt. It's small (163 inches long), super quick (6.5s 0-60 but feels much quicker due to EV torque), and incredibly useful due to being a proper hatchback. The stop-and-go of city driving provides substantial regenerative braking, causing range to be sipped ultra-frugally. You can park it anywhere, u-turn it anywhere, zip in and out of traffic with ease and oh yeah -- it's an absolute kick in the goodies to drive. The Bolt will run away and hide from a Prius, laughing and pointing the whole way. I tell (or told rather) people on a daily basis that the Bolt is a "street legal go-kart." Steering response is excellent, as is driver visibility from it's elevated seating position. Ingress/Egress is also superb from all 4 doors. Thanks to it's non-aggressive roofline and flat floor, (no drivetrain hump found in ICE vehicles) interior passenger space is cavernous for a subcompact car. My passengers were continually baffled by the Bolt's ongoing magic trick of looking so tiny on the outside and being so spacious on the inside.
I can hear all of you saying now as I write this, "Fuck Ryan, we get it. You like the car. So why are you so upset?"
Well, I'll tell you. It's precisely because the Bolt is such a great car that I'm so upset. As my primary work vehicle, if I can't use it to it's full capacity it is undoubtedly going to mean less earnings for me, which it has. Let's talk about why I can't use it for work any more though.
The issue plaguing the Chevy Bolt is a (potentially) faulty battery pack that can catch on fire when charged to 100% capacity. These aren't just any old car fires either. EV fires are especially hazardous for emergency responders as special chemicals, extra personnel, and copious amounts of water are needed to extinguish them. 28,000 gallons?!? That's nearly enough water to fill up a 16x32 swimming pool to a depth of 8 feet. Think about that. 105 metric tons of water to put out a fire. Take a look at some of these photos in the gallery below. These cars are FUCKED UP, as are the structures around them.
For the first 10 months or so of this fiasco, Chevrolet and battery maker LG had no fix for this problem. First, Bolt owners were told to not charge their vehicles above 95%. Then it was 90%. Then came the supposed "software fix", and Bolts still caught on fire. Then came the hilarious list of instructions for Bolt owners on where, when, and how to charge their cars. Don't let your charge fall below 30% (70 miles) or re-charge above 90%. Damn, well that reduces my range from 240 to 140. Don't charge the car in your garage. Don't charge the car near your house. Don't leave the car charging unattended. Park it on the roof of the parking garage, if you're even allowed in. And of course my absolute favorite: a suggested restraining order recommendation to not park within 50 feet of other vehicles. Subway Jared could find a job at a daycare easier than I can find a safe spot to park and charge this thing.
(this weary Bolt owner finally found an acceptable place to park after being up all night "attending" his car while it was charging)
You can't make this shit up. I was fortunate enough to have other vehicles to use for both my personal and commercial purposes, but what if I hadn't? These charging guidelines were the only things "officially" offered to Bolt owners. "We're working on it" was the official response for months. After coming across a message board where a Bolt owner had reported he received a full buy back offer from Chevy after contacting them directly, I thought it was worth a try of my own. Now the fun begins.
Chevrolet has a special "EV Concierge" division set up to deal with this Brazilian coat hanger abortion known as the Bolt EV recall. After reaching out to them, I was flabbergasted that I actually got a case number assigned to me and was told I was moving forward with the repurchase process. Yahoo!! All I had to do was ask? Shame on you Chevy for not letting Bolt owners know that the repurchase of these Iraqi IED's was even an option. Instead of putting your big girl panties on and communicating directly with Bolt owners, you set up a clandestine network of customers trapped in prisoner dilemmas in which no one knew what the fuck was going on or what our options were.
After making contact with an agent and receiving a case number, it was a full 2 weeks before I received further contact. Obviously I was a super high priority. At my next contact I was asked for some very basic and reasonable things: My identification, my insurance, my loan paperwork showing my remaining balance, my original purchase order from the dealership, and pictures of the car showing it's condition and mileage. Easy enough. I promptly submitted my documents to my agent and awaited further instructions. Not long now! Soon this 6 month long nightmare will be over I thought. You silly, silly, naive little boy. What happened next still bamboozles me today.
A full 8 weeks after I started this process with GM and received my case number, they finally made me an offer to buy the car back. Mind you, my out the door price on my Bolt at the time of purchase was roughly $29,500. I had paid down my loan ahead of schedule, but I still owed about $18,000 at the initiation of the buyback. All of this was painfully obvious from the documents I submitted. I thought at the very least GM was going to make me whole and zero out my loan for a clean walkaway. What I owed should have had nothing to do with their offer, but I would have been happy just to have the process over with so that I could move on and purchase a functional vehicle. Then the offer came through:
Thirt-een fucking thousand. Were they serious? What they offered me was below wholesale for the car, and I would have had to come out of pocket $5,000 to clear out my loan. WTF. I asked my agent if this was a joke, and she said no. She also stated that I didn't provide her with the proper loan paperwork detailing the amount of interest I had paid on my loan, so they were unable to come up with a proper valuation. Horse. Shit. I provided a detailed print out of every payment I had made on the car since the loan originated, of which each payment was clearly broken down in to principle and interest amounts. After 8 weeks of screwing around emailing back and forth and waiting with baited breath for each response, the solution they came up with for me was to offer $5,000 less than what I owed so that I could buy my way out of their manufacturing incompetence and negligence. Infuriated, I rejected their offer and was resigned to wait for whatever "fix" these charlatans came up with. Why were some Bolt owners offered their full buyback amount, but I was told to pound sand and sit on a sharp stick? Who the hell knows. Fast forward.
(side note: $13,000 is also the amount that GM has estimated the cost to be to replace the entire battery pack on each Bolt. Coincidence? I'll let you decide. GM is also going to receive nearly all of the the estimated $2 Billion in replacement costs for the battery packs/modules back from LG after suing them )
A couple months later I came across another message thread where a Bolt owner had contacted the Better Business Bureau in hopes of getting his Bolt repurchased. He stated that once he informed Chevy that that BBB was involved, his repurchase was completed within 2 weeks. Amazing. It's really sad that we need the BBB to get involved to make GM treat their customers with a modicum of decency, but I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. So I filed a case with the BBB, and wouldn't you know, Chevy reached back out to me within days asking if I wanted to reinitiate the buyback process. Aha! Maybe this time I'll get an agent with an IQ above crushed gravel and enough sense to come in out of the rain and we'll be wrapped up quickly.
That was 6 weeks ago.
After being transferred to 2 different agents and having to submit all of the same documents AGAIN (where did they go?), I am again wandering the desert waiting for emails to be returned and not having any of my questions or concerns directly answered when they are returned. As of this writing, I am 2 weeks in to waiting for a response to my last email, in which I had to provide them my home address AGAIN after already submitting it multiple times. This is the private sector version of trying to get something done at the DMV near closing time. The customer service I have received during this process from GM has been the lovechild of incompetence and indifference. They just don't give a shit, and it couldn't be more obvious.
(me trying to get GM to return emails or phone calls)
Suffice to say, I will never again purchase a GM vehicle, no matter how bad I might want one. We are a GM family. We currently own a 17' Suburban, and had 2 different Tahoes before that. We are genuinely interested in getting a new body style Tahoe or Suburban once dealers stop being able to charge 15k over MSRP mark-ups for them. I know GM could GAF about one whiny nobody's blog post, but as consumers the only way we will ever get recalcitrant corporations like GM to change their behavior is to pull their pants down in front of the class and point and laugh. I am still waiting for either a response from GM concerning my repurchase, or for my dealer to reach out to me to tell me it's "my turn" to have my battery pack replaced.
Hey GM: by the way while I waiting for you to acknowledge me and come up with a solution, I actually found one on my own. There's a reason this company could use your market cap as a budget for their next Christmas party.
*** Update on Bolt Recall Situation -- November 9th, 2021 ***
In an effort to keep the pressure on GM to actually fix this problem, I'm going to continually add to this post as updates become available. Admittedly, I'm a purist and a militant when it comes to these things. Behemoth multi-national corporations like GM need to know there are economic consequences to their actions. If 1 person reads this and thinks twice about purchasing a GM vehicle, my efforts will have been worth it.
Today marks a full 20 days since my last correspondance with GM in the never ending saga that is the Chevrolet Bolt EV Battery Recall. I'm going to post a series of screen shots here which are actual email correspondance between myself and GM.
Here is the beginning of my 2nd buyback attempt with GM. Not surprisingly, this email showed up just 2 days after I filed my initial claim with the BBB.
I was super excited at this point. Things are moving! I promptly submitted my documents which you can see here:
Crickets. Here is me barking at the moon for a couple weeks to no avail.
Finally, I'm graced with a response. Notice I've been transfered to a different agent though. Rarely does this help things in my experience. This email gave me renewed hope however as Angelica details a few different options that are available to me. Just for context, I have been consistently open to a number of different solutions during this debacle. I actually had a new Bolt EUV on order in April after starting my 1st buyback attempt, wrongly assuming the process would work to completion and I would take delivery of my new EUV in June or July. Our family has also been open to purchasing a new Tahoe or Suburban, assuming we could get one for just "regular MSRP" (the seasoned car buyer in me even bristles at paying MSRP, but this is our Covid dystopian reality) and not the $10-20k "market adjustment" these dealer bandits are charging. As stated earlier in this post our family also has a 17' Suburban which we love, but are more than open to include with our Bolt in a package deal for a new Tahoe/Suburban.
This is where we've gone off the rails again. I asked for specific clarifications on what all of these different options would mean to me. The email I get back addresses none of these questions, but instead asks me to confirm my home address. I've only given them this oh say about FinityBillion times, and it's also on several of the documents I submitted AGAIN on the the 2nd buyback process. What happened to the other options available to me? I now appear to be getting steered down the "wait your turn" path for a new battery pack.
I responded back with my home address, again reasserting my wishes for a buyback and not a warranty repair.
I have received no further communication from GM since this reply. I have repeatedly tried to reach my case agent via telephone, only to find her voice mailbox to always be full. A full voicemail box? WTF is this, 1998? Would someone like to buy my pets.com stock?? A full voicemail box is what you expect from your friend with the 480 credit score who is trying to avoid debt collectors, not a $90 Billion corporation. Hey GM, maybe select the next level up on your cloud service storage plan so your CSA's don't have full voicemail boxes in 2021. Jesus Christ, what's next, a busy signal? GM sending me 50-hour AOL free trial CD's as a consolation prize?? SMH.
Which brings us to today. Obviously I've fallen in to the abyss and am no longer on GM's radar. I reopened my case with the BBB and am going to see this through to the end with them. I've tried to give GM a chance to conduct themselves correctly, but they just repeatedly refuse to do it. You can see that I've also alerted them to my post here.
So that's where we're at. I might not have thousands and thousands of readers (yet) on this site, but I know of no better way to get GM to notice me. I don't want sue you GM. I don't want to contact the BBB to get you to act your age. I wanted to spend 10's of thousands of more dollars with you. But all of that is over now. You've shown your cards, and now I'm Deuces.