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Why Dealers Make the Difference in the EV Game: Part 2

Raquel Soat
Oct 16, 2018

EVs 2

Part one of this blog series described my experience test driving a plug-in hybrid EV (PHEV) in California to gain insight into how dealerships handle selling the vehicles. The results were disheartening for any EV advocate. The salesman was uninformed about the correct electric range of the car and the OEM’s line-up of plug-in EV (PEV) offerings, they were also unaware of the California and federal PEV tax credits.

Testing Driving in Colorado and Michigan

Test driving a battery EV (BEV) in Colorado was a similar experience to California. The salesman did not know the range of the vehicle (although their estimate was close), did not know about the purchase incentive in Colorado, and seemed critical of my intention to buy an emissions reducing vehicle. 

Test driving an EV in Michigan was the most discouraging experience, considering it is known as “the auto state.” The lack of vehicle knowledge held true, but the salesman also tried to push me away from buying an EV after I expressed interest in a low emissions vehicle. “You’ve got to be too young to own a home, so finding charging around here is going to be impossible. You’d be so much better off with this car over here,” the salesman stated, leading me to a comparable, gas-powered sedan. After finally convincing the salesman that I did, in fact, want to test drive the PHEV and BEV models on the lot, they seemed significantly less confident when giving information.

Solving the Knowledge and Education Problems

The knowledge and education problems span beyond the consumer. While dealers are good at selling the features of every vehicle, they should become more knowledgeable about the differences between traditional gasoline and alternatively fueled vehicles if we are to continue to increase PEV adoption. Incentive programs will be key to initially educating dealers and enticing them to sell EVs, especially outside of major urban areas. Zero emission vehicle (ZEV) mandates are one way to motivate PEV adoption, but governments and automakers in regions outside of ZEV regulation need to implement dealer education and incentive programs. The margin for dealers is slimmer on PEVs because they make less on replacement parts and services, like oil changes, and have longer sales cycles. The government or automakers need to require dealer PEV training or the dealers will likely continue with the status quo. Dealer partnerships between stakeholders, such as utilities and advocacy groups, could aid in solving the dealer education gap too. Dealers are currently posing a large threat to EV adoption, and we must work to find a solution if PEV adoption is to continue to rise.