While most electric vehicle startups have adopted a direct sales approach, it would appear that not that many buyers are comfortable with the concept of buying an EV online. 

According to a new survey called 2022 EVForward Dealer DeepDive, EV owners and prospective buyers expect automakers to offer both an online and in-person shopping experience.

Developed to capture the attitudes, behaviors and opinions of the next generation of EV buyers, the survey authored by the EVForward team, part of advisory firm Escalent, included 1,289 people, only 88 of which are EV owners.

The participants were grouped into EV intenders (those who are most likely to shop for an EV), EV opens (those who are somewhat likely to purchase an EV) and EV resistants (people who are more comfortable with internal combustion engine vehicles).

The study found that prospective buyers want to use both online and in-person resources to buy an EV, which suggests the dealership will remain an essential part of an EV intender's shopping experience, according to the report.

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The survey revealed that 74 percent of respondents would prefer to buy an EV at a dealership, rather than from an automaker or third party. Interestingly, a majority of each group prefers buying from a dealership. That said, participants who already own an EV, EV intenders and younger buyers are more likely to prefer purchasing directly from a carmaker.

The report also shows that some shopping features common to EV specialist brands have low acceptance. For example, 71 percent of respondents said third-party call centers for service inquiries are unacceptable, as are showrooms at select locations (55 percent), vehicles purchased online (52 percent) and ordering a vehicle and waiting for delivery (48 percent).

According to the report, this indicates that shoppers are accustomed to expect certain services from dealerships. For example, participants to the survey expect key in-person features such as having the vehicle on site to drive and experience, price negotiation, finalizing the contract and vehicle handoff. As far as vehicle maintenance is concerned, in-person options are also what respondents expect. 

"People are much more comfortable taking their vehicle to a dealer than they are, for instance, having a mobile service unit coming out and doing it in their driveway or garage," said K.C. Boyce, Escalent's vice president of powertrain innovation and energy transformation, was quoted as saying by Automotive News.

Boyce added that about 21 percent of customers are likely to shop for an EV when they shop for a new vehicle, with the survey also finding that 44 percent of shoppers think it's unacceptable for showrooms to have limited vehicles on display. 

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