As it turns out, car dealers seem to know even less than buyers do when it comes to electric vehicles, and they don’t really seem too keen on learning about them. The Washington Post spoke with a number of customers who said dealers tried to redirect them to gas cars or gave them unclear or downright incorrect answers about EVs.
Put simply, many U.S. buyers say car dealerships aren’t prepared for the transition to electric vehicles, and that’s a big problem when you consider the fact they are responsible for selling the vast majority of new cars. When you add in the fact that the Biden Administration aims to have two-thirds of new cars sold in the U.S. be electric by 2032 and the hundreds of billions of dollars automakers have spent on EVs, buddy, you’re cooking a really shitty stew.
There are similar stories of misinformation playing out all over the country, according to The Post.
As news started coming out about electric cars in early 2016, Michael Young, a self-described “car guy,” knew he wanted to try one. One afternoon, he strolled into his local dealership and asked to test drive the BMW i3, a small, sporty car with a range of up to 150 miles. The salesperson stopped him. “You can’t drive that car on the highway,” Young recalls the salesperson saying, explaining that the car couldn’t go over 45 miles per hour.
“I was kind of dumbfounded by that,” Young said.
Young knew it could go much faster — and, after convincing the salesperson to let him go on a test drive, ultimately bought the i3.
James Richards, the CEO of a water heating company in Davis, Calif., spent days test-driving EVs at Volkswagen, Tesla, Chevy and Ford. But the 40-year-old found the dealership experience “cringeworthy” — the dealers didn’t seem to know much about the EVs they were selling. “I felt like I knew more than they did,” Richards said.
Initially, Richards was hoping to buy an F-150 Lightning, but the truck was back-ordered. The salesperson could only get him an expensive trim that came with a high dealer markup. That markup added “insult to injury,” Richards said. He ended up buying a Tesla Model Y. Tesla salespeople “strike you as EV geeks,” Richards explained. “All the other dealerships: Ford, VW, the GM people — they didn’t seem like specialists.”
There are a number of other —honestly shocking — stories just like these in The Washington Post article, which you should really check out!
There are a number of reasons why dealers aren’t really that interested in selling electric vehicles. Their tech is a far more unknown quantity to dealers, the profit margins are far slimmer and sales tend to be a bit slower. Overall, it has made dealers really weary, and many of them don’t even want to bother, according to The Post.
According to a survey that the Sierra Club conducted at the end of 2022, 66 percent of dealerships did not have an EV available for sale. That was at the height of EV supply chain problems, but 45 percent of those dealers — or 30 percent of all dealers surveyed — said they wouldn’t offer an EV even if they could.
Dealers may have less economic incentive to sell electric vehicles. Buzz Smith, a former Chevrolet car salesman who now helps train dealers to sell EVs, says it can take much longer to sell an electric car than a gas-powered one. A gas car, he said, might take no more than an hour in a single visit to sell, yielding a tidy commission.
But for electric vehicles, “it was usually four visits, an hour each, before they would buy the EV,” Smith said. Customers want to make sure they understand the technology, how to charge it and more. “So I’m volunteering to take a 75 percent pay cut — and no salesman wants to do that.”
Despite all this, some dealers are apparently working to embrace the EV revolution. A Ford dealer president tells The Post that her salespeople are participating in the training Ford has offered on how to sell EVs. However, they’ve apparently only sold about a dozen electric cars so far.
No matter what, it’s going to be an uphill battle to get dealers on board with the whole EV thing.
“Dealers don’t want to change the model,” a law professor who studies the law and economics of dealers at the University of Michigan said. “They want to be the gatekeepers.”
Anyway, I don’t want to give too much else away since it is a really interesting read! Head on over to The Washington Post for the full story.