A man walks into a bar car dealership. It's a joke.

It probably won't come as a shock to our loyal readers that the following anecdote actually happened.

The salesperson said that they might have one EV, but it was in a warehouse maybe 10 minutes away. He told me to wait there. When he did not return, I went into the dealership and found him talking to a co-worker… He told me he was trying to get the key for me to drive the gasoline-powered model. I explained that I was looking for an EV to which he said they don’t have any but if you want you can come back.

What's EV shopping like among major brands?

What's EV shopping like among major brands?

This was just one experience of a single mystery electric vehicle shopper who, along with a small army of their colleagues, made 141 trips to assorted U.S. dealerships of 11 different brands, along with AutoNation, after first preparing by "pre-shopping on dealer's websites."

The effort was organized by Ipsos RDA Automotive and its Mystery Shop Team to examine the EV shopping experience provided by each of the major brands. resulting in the research firm's first ever " Electric Vehicle (EV) Sales Experience and Best Practice Study."

Overall, it seems the mystery shoppers found a sales landscape largely unprepared for the coming influx of electric models, with a lot of inconsistencies, even among stores offering the same brands. The process of buying was largely the same as for traditional vehicles, though EVs often couldn't be found on showroom floors, websites lacked proper inventory and critical EV ownership information. Shoppers "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”. It's a bit of a mess, really.

With insufficient training and a lack of support from above, salespeople tended to try to move people towards the gas-powered vehicles they had more experience with, which Ipsos SVP Mike VanNieuwkuyk points out risks damaging customers' trust. As we mentioned, the EV shopping experience was inconsistent, meaning some stores handled EV sales quite acceptably.

One brand that did offer a quality sales experience was, unsurprisingly, Tesla. Shoppers found the staff well-informed and "passionate." It seems the others, though, which Automotive News lists as BMW, Chevrolet, Fiat, Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, and Volkswagen, could benefit from sending their own mystery shoppers over to their all-electric competition for some note taking.

Source: Ipsos RDA via Automotive News

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