In its latest Electric Vehicle (EV) Sales Experience and Best Practice Study, Ipsos RDA finds that dealerships are often not prepared for electric vehicles.

Sell or not to sell?

Sell or not to sell?

We heard this story many times since plug-in sales kicked off in earnest in late 2010, and it seems that times have not changed that much over the past 7 years.

Ipsos RDA visited 141 dealerships, located in the hottest EV markets in the U.S., to realize that (on average) the customer experience in shopping for a plug-in car is far removed from the service one finds at a dedicated Tesla store network.

Some of the dealers were ready to promote and sell, but others were not, as there is an inconsistent experience within a single brand.

As one might expect, dealers that are not prepared for the plug-in movement aren't equipped with the knowledge of electric vehicles, their inventory is limited, but are happy to still try to sell you an ICE vehicle - despite the consumer asking about its plug-in offerings.

“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, VP, Research at Ipsos RDA.

Here is more of what Ipsos RDA found out:

Unprepared Staffs, Inconsistent Practices, and Limited EV Inventory and Information

Tesla sales staff, advantaged given their EV-only product line, exude a passion for electric vehicles and are equipped with the information needed to help consumers make informed decisions. This is not the case for traditional brand dealers who sell EV’s alongside other vehicles. 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.

Furthermore, the sales process experience at traditional brand dealerships is largely inconsistent. Consumers shopping for a specific EV model may have distinctly different experiences from one dealership to another in the same brand family — one well informed, educational and supportive, the other completely lacking. “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, VP, Research at Ipsos RDA.

Ipsos RDA – Electric Vehicle (EV) Sales Experience and Best Practice Study

Ipsos RDA – Electric Vehicle (EV) Sales Experience and Best Practice Study

These core issues tend to result in dealers moving consumers toward other, non-EV, models they are more comfortable selling. One key issue revealed in these findings was the belief held by some dealers that the consumer must be prepared to compromise on their EV shopping experience expectations. This included expecting limited or no inventory to physical evaluate or select from. Rather than search for, or order, the desired vehicle, many shoppers are pressed to accept what is available — including hybrids or even gas-engine alternatives. “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” added VanNieuwkuyk.

EVs Do Not Take Center Stage

Electric vehicles are not often seen on the showroom floor nor are marketing materials displayed or made available and many dealerships that sell these vehicles don’t have designated EV sales people to manage the various questions and concerns potential owners have. “This lack of support for the EV shopper lessens the likelihood that they will make the decision to go electric” said 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”.

According to Mike VanNieuwkuyk, SVP, Ipsos RDA said:

“Many OEMs have already introduced electric vehicles to their product lineups and there will be many more in the coming years. 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.”

About the Study:

"RDA Automotive and the Ipsos Loyalty’s mystery shopping practice — the largest such practice in the world. The study was conducted in September and October of 2017. This mystery shop project covered 11 Electric Vehicle brands across the 10 largest EV markets in the U.S. Ipsos shopped the EV sales process — up to, but not including, the actual finance process. Mystery shoppers documented the shopping experience of 141 EV selling dealerships by completing a scorecard that includes up to 50 sales process attributes. A selection of the mystery shops was also videotaped, providing rich details on the consumer’s perspective of the EV shopping experience."

source: Ipsos RDAElectric Vehicle (EV) Sales Experience and Best Practice Study