Some Dealers Get It - Like This One Who Displays The Chevy Volt Prominently

Some Dealers Get It - Like This One Who Displays The Chevy Volt Prominently

Recently, Consumer Reports set out on a seemingly simple mission.  The goal was to evaluate various dealerships on how well they're acquainted with electric vehicles and on how willing/motivated they are to sell plug in vehicle.

Consumer Reports stated:

"You would think that if you were to go to a car dealership that sold electric cars, a salesperson would want to sell you one. But that that’s true only some of the time, a months-long survey by Consumer Reports reveals. And that's the case with some brands more than others."

As always, Consumer Reports does not disclose its identity to dealerships when conducting automotive investigation of this nature.

Below, Consumer Reports describes both the trigger for this investigation and the process in which it obtained the information:

"After several consumers who wanted to buy a plug-in car reported to us that some dealerships were steering them toward gas-powered models, we decided to see how salespeople answered their questions about electric cars and whether they were encouraged to buy an EV or directed toward other models. In total, 19 secret shoppers went to 85 dealerships in four states, making their anonymous visits between December 2013 and March 2014."

"We also had our shoppers record the number of plug-in vehicles each dealership had in stock and which models to see whether salespeople were just trying to sell what they had available on the lot."

"To gauge the salespeople’s knowledge about electric cars, our secret shoppers asked a number of specific questions about the vehicles. Questions covered tax breaks and other incentives, vehicle charge time, cost, and options, vehicle range, and battery life and warranty. They also asked the salespeople whether they recommended buying or leasing."

Let's now take a look at some of the findings, as detailed by Consumer Reports:

Prius Plug-In Hybrid

Prius Plug-In Hybrid

  • We found that whether salespeople encourage the sale of an electric car or discourage shoppers from buying one seems to have as much to do with their knowledge about plug-in cars as with the number the dealership has in stock.
  • Overall, many dealership salespeople were not as knowledgeable about electric cars as you might expect.
  • Many seemed not to have a good understanding of electric-car tax breaks and other incentives or of charging needs and costs.
  • When it came to answering basic questions, we found that salespeople at Chevrolet, Ford, and Nissan dealerships tended to be better informed than those at Honda and Toyota, with a notable distinction between Chevrolet and Toyota.
  • Toyota salespeople, especially, were more likely to discourage the sale of plug-in models
That's the more general overview of the secret shoppers found.  Here are some specific details that truly irk usL
  • A sales manager at Manhattan Ford in New York City, the only Ford dealership actually owned by the automaker, at first denied there was a Focus EV, and then said it couldn’t be leased. Both statements are incorrect.
  • When asked about a Prius Plug-in, a salesperson at Star Toyota Scion of Bayside, N.Y., would not even show our shopper the car, despite having one in stock.
  • Most of the Toyota dealerships we visited recommended against buying a Prius Plug-in and suggested buying a standard Prius hybrid instead.
And now for the conclusion, as told by Consumer Reports:

Nissan LEAF

Nissan LEAF

"Overall, our secret shoppers reported that only 13 dealers “discouraged sale of EV,” with seven of them being in New York. Most of those stores had little to no inventory. However, at 35 of the 85 dealerships they visited, our shoppers said salespeople recommended buying a gas-powered car instead. Besides the standard Prius, a few of these cases seemed like reasonable advice. For example, one salesperson suggested a Nissan SUV instead of a LEAF when our shopper told him she had a commute that would stretch the LEAF’s range."

"In the end, most salespeople seemed to have the consumer’s interest at heart, though a few were clearly not interested selling a plug-in car they knew little about. Still, even at the least knowledgeable dealership visited for this project, our secret shopper said they felt positive about the experience overall."

We highly recommend you check out the full Consumer Reports' story titled "Dealers not always plugged in about electric cars, Consumer Reports’ study reveals" by clicking here.

Source: Consumer Reports