Are Dealerships Killing Electric Cars?
What if we told you dealerships in the most EV-friendly parts of Europe are just as bad at selling plug-in cars as they are here?
Some Scandinavian countries are seen as electric vehicle paradises from our North American shores, are they not? This past March in Norway, for example, plug-ins accounted for an astounding 55 percent of new car sales. Heady headlines, however, may be papering over a more fundamental problem when it comes to selling these vehicles to the public. The issue? Dealerships.
It seem there, as here, salespeople are letting down their customers if they inquire about electric vehicles. As much as we’d like to believe this is not the case, there is proof. A study published in the journal Nature Energy, tracks the results from sending mystery shoppers on 126 visits to 82 dealerships in 15 cities spread over five countries — Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. It combined the data collected by their spies with other evidence from expert interviews, then analyzed the variance of experiences within the different countries. The results of all this were pretty interesting.
If you click on the chart of salesperson rankings for the five countries (right), you can see that Norway is clearly ahead of its close neighbors. This is, they say, because of that country’s superior incentives. In Denmark, which cut its subsidies last summer, resulting in an electric vehicle sales crash, customers were directed towards internal combustion cars because not are they more familiar and comfortable with selling this product, customers are typically more apt to buy them anyway.
All the countries involved, regardless of the amount of government support for EVs, still had issues with the sales experience. From the study’s conclusion:
Despite market differences, our mystery shopping and expert interview data show that dealers were dismissive of EVs, misinformed shoppers on vehicle specifications, omitted EVs from the sales conversation and strongly oriented customers towards ICEVs.
The study also talks about why this is potentially very bad for EVs. Sales, they say, have until now been driven by the early adopter types and is approaching the gap where it may either be picked up by the mainstream or possibly not. Yes, despite an electric future looking like a fait accompli, it contends there is still a danger in the transition faltering.
Nothing, it seems, can be taken for granted, and the authors have some suggestions about how to increase the uptake and improve customer experiences which they say suffers from perceived problems like “...low profitability, lack of EV models on site, lack of knowledge and competence about EV specifications, and [the sense that] that EVs take longer to sell.”
It suggests improving tax structures by “explicitly address capital costs of EVs instead of costs of ownership,” as well as getting governments to “encourage car dealerships, through a potential standard or reward scheme, to revise sales commission and compensation structures to increase the willingness of dealerships and salespeople to engage with EV technology.”
There’s quite a bit more here, so if data and policy interests you, we suggest spending some quality time poring over the work.