US Dealers Woefully Unprepared To Sell Electric Cars

A “mystery shopper” study by Ipsos RDA conducted nationwide in September and October revealed something that many of you already know — many car dealers are poorly prepared to sell electric cars. Over the years, our readers have complained long and loud about clueless sales people who have no training in electric cars, dealers who refuse to order enough cars for their inventories, and numerous attempts to switch customers away from electric cars and toward hybrids or conventional cars instead.

EV Charging Station for electric cars

We have heard tales of general managers who don’t know electric cars have to be charged prior to driving, sales people who don’t know the difference between hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and battery electric cars, and a general lack of interest in selling EVs at all. Few dealerships have any brochures about electric cars available and fewer still display them on the showroom floor.

The Ipsos study found, among other things, that “The EV sales process, in many instances, has not been differentiated from the traditional and, in effect, is passive. The availability of inventory, as well as critical EV ownership information in-store (from the sales staff or marketing materials) and online, is concerning and leaves shoppers with unanswered questions.”

The mystery shoppers found a glaring lack of consistency in the approach to electric car sales even at different stores within the same sales organization. “The lack of consistency in the EV shopping experience, even within the same brand, highlights the need for better product knowledge and support to effectively position electric vehicles with the U.S. automotive consumer,” says Todd Markusic, vice president of research at Ipsos.

“This lack of support for the EV shopper lessens the likelihood that they will make the decision to go electric,” says Markusic. “It is surprising that consumers often were not offered an EV test drive, a key experience that showcases the uniqueness of its performance benefits. Most of the time the consumer had to request one.”

A big part of the problem is that dealers and sales representatives make less money selling electric cars than they do full size pickup trucks with all the bells and whistles. If you were in business, you would gravitate toward your highest profit items too, in all likelihood.

Manufacturers say they have little control over how dealers run their businesses but that is clearly an excuse. If you want to know what is going on behind the scenes, keep track of the number of pickup truck ads you see on TV while watching football this weekend. Then contrast that with the number of ads you see for electric cars. That experiment will tell you all you need to know about who is really responsible for the woeful state of electric car sales policies in America.


Steve Hanley

Closely following the transition from internal combustion to electricity. Whether it's cars, trucks, ships, or airplanes, sustainability is the key. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.