Are dealerships ready for EV invasion?

Traditional dealerships in the U.S. are not yet prepared for the electric vehicle (EV) invasion that is rapidly coming their way, according to a report by Ipsos RDA, a global market and opinion research specialist.

The study, meant to help prepare dealers for this eventual reality, looked at the sales process of automotive brands that offer EVs in their lineup. The company sent mystery shoppers to dealerships selling the most popular models and found that their staff was unprepared, offered limited EV inventory and information, and their practices (such as the sales process) were inconsistent.

“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,” said Todd Markusic, Vice President of Research at Ipsos RDA.

The EV sales process was found to be passive and too similar to the traditional process for non battery-powered cars. And the experience itself was described as largely inconsistent from one dealership to another.

Every model year, vehicles become more fuel efficient and cleaner — reducing the need for an emissions testing regime that is a relic of the 1990s

The availability of important information regarding these vehicles — both in-store and online — also left many consumers with unanswered questions, according to the news release. The vehicles were rarely seen on the showroom floor and marketing materials were not on display or made available. And when it came to the test drive, customers often had to request one rather than have it offered to them.

One of the main issues, however, appeared to be dealers moving customers away from EV models and towards the traditional vehicles they are more comfortable selling.

“Attempting to switch a shopper away from their EV interest is not only damaging the likelihood of a potential sale, but it can damage the trust a consumer has with the dealership” said Mike VanNieuwkuyk, Senior Vice President, Ipsos RDA.

The study is meant to provide dealers with insight on how they can prepare for the growing number of new electric vehicles that are being introduced to OEM lineups — and will continue to be introduced in the coming years, according to Van Nieuwkuyk. “The results of this study can assist OEMs and dealerships in establishing an informative and supportive sales process focused on the unique elements of Electric Vehicle ownership,” he said.

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