Report: Most Dealers Fail In Selling EVs, 14% Of Them Don’t Even Charge Them

AUG 14 2016 BY MARK KANE 49

Consumers’ Overall EV Shopping Experience (source: Sierra Club)

Consumers’ Overall EV Shopping Experience (source: Sierra Club)

The the overall plug-in electric vehicle shopping experience was recently rated by the Sierra Club – including both the traditional dealership model, and direct sales.

In total, 174 volunteers visited 308 car dealerships and stores that represented 13 different automakers in 10 ZEV states. Some of the volunteers even bought an EV during the process.

The results are mostly predictable – although maybe slightly better then the low expectations we had heading into the survey.

Once again, Tesla stores received the highest marks overall – as really their only product is an electric one.

Surprisingly, Audi yielded no negative impressions, while BMW had a strong 2nd place showing – which makes sense considering the German brand now has 5 different models to offer this month (the 740e just arrived in August), and plug-in sales this Summer have accounted for 1 in every 10 BMW sales overall.

“Volunteers were asked to rate their overall experience with the dealership on a five-point scale where 1 was “very negative” and 5 was “very positive.””

Dealers in many cases were not interested in offering an EV, and often were not prepared with any information to share on them, or the federal credit program.

Of note:   14% of dealers with an electric vehicle physically present on the lot, failed to have any charged up and available to take a spin on electricity (interestingly Chevrolet and Ford scored a failing rate of 21% and 22% respectively on this metric).

Sierra Clubs "Key Findings" In New Report - Read Full PDF Here

Sierra Clubs “Key Findings” In New Report

Many more interesting details can be found in the Sierra Club’s report – Multi-State Study Of The Electric Vehicle Shopping Experience.

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49 Comments on "Report: Most Dealers Fail In Selling EVs, 14% Of Them Don’t Even Charge Them"

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WHY??? Because “their Bread & Butter” is the “ICE” Car !…….This transition will not be made overnight!

I could tear this apart but won’t…I’ll just say if you feel dealers are the sole problem then why not bypass them? Buy either from Tesla or an EV through Costco…

Because of political protectionism, Direct Sales are not legal in many states?

Traveling to other states – or moving there – is legal tho. You can even shop there.

@Bacardi, perhaps because they cannot afford a Tesla?
That would be roughly 90% of Americans.

And then of those, many would hesitate to buy a vehicle from a new tech unfamiliar to them, via a third-party online retailer (Costco). Unless they are already *very* familiar with EVs, they’d likely want to touch and feel the vehicle first.

Not everyone can afford a new Tesla but sub-$50K used Tesla’s aren’t impossible to find…Costco isn’t exactly a 3rd party, they send you to the dealer where you’ve given a fixed price list of the cars/trims/options…No haggle and you can still test drive the car…

Have another Bacardi …We are talking about “Why most dealer fail in selling EV”s” And that most dealers don’t even charge ! “That is the subject”., Wise Guy..We all know there are other factors involved as well…But for now, STICK TO THE SUBJECT ! Or have another drink & stay out of it!

Since you want to stay on topic…A car salesman’s primary job is to close as many customers as possible…”Bread and butter” means nothing to them…High MSRPs do…Chevy Volt’s sticker is $34K and max out at $40K-ish…Vettes and Silverados go much higher in stickers so they can easily “bady step” someone to fall in love with the base $55K Vette but then you realize you want more features so pony up thousands more…$60K (or higher) Vette vs a $40K Volt, easy choice for a salesman…

They are paid a % of profit not % of sales price. Often times there is more profit in a used car than a new car even though the new car is more expensive. To your point there is likely less profit built into these plugins vs many other new cars/trucks.

I agree with your point, but the reasonong was a little off.

It’s also because they don’t even understand how an EV works and they dont’ want to make fools out of them. Of course it’s similar to the RC toys the kids play with but maybe the customer ask what kind of an electric motor is inside? or what is the chemistry of the Battery?

Which is why Tesla is right in their no dealer approach and why GM and Ford should restart Saturn and Mercury as electric only companies with no dealers…

Musk will get to Mars before Ford does that . IT’s a great idea, if they would only do it! What are the chances…

GM and Ford should restart Saturn and Mercury as electric only companies with no dealers…” I certainly agree that legacy auto makers need to create a separate brand to sell PEVs under. But are they ready to shift to the “no dealers; order online” strategy that Tesla uses? That would be a seismic shift in their business model. The current business model is for auto makers to sell cars to their dealers, who in turn try to sell them to the public. Auto makers aren’t set up to make large numbers of cars to order, and at least some reports I’ve read suggest they consider it a hassle to do so. GM did try the “no haggle” approach for selling the Saturn, but I don’t know how well that worked for them. Obviously they haven’t tried it again, so I’m guessing it didn’t work out so well. I think that eventually, it’s inevitable that the “stealership” business model will go away. There are just too many economic advantages to cutting out the middleman, and of course dealing with a “stealership” is usually an unpleasant experience, sometimes even a traumatic one. But legacy auto makers certainly are not going to rush… Read more »

Saturn no haggle was the very reason that I have had a saturn since 1994! I loved it. You went in you paid your money and were out. And because of the price fix, the resale of the cars held pretty well too. Or was it the fact that the sides popped back out when hit?

Selling cars through dealerships is a huge long term problem for legacy auto…
If the other new and new to america auto makers dont have dealers needing a 2k or so profit from every electric vehicle sold then legacy auto will be squezed out on price alone…
Dealers will need a big per vehicle profit on electrics since they dont need maintance or have parts that reguarly fail…

“Auto makers aren’t set up to make large numbers of cars to order, and at least some reports I’ve read suggest they consider it a hassle to do so.”

Probably helps to explain why Chevy just left off the GPS I ordered on my Volt.

It’s very frustrating to go test drive a PHEV and then run it solely on gas. I had that happen with a Volt and with a C-Max Energi at new-car dealers.

Interestingly, the used dealership where I eventually bought mine kept them all 50% charged and the salesman owned a C-Max Energi himself.

Brubaker’s Auto Sales in Myerstown, PA if you don’t mind driving to Amish country and you want to use a straightforward EV-supporting dealer.

Every now and again I read a comment that is so ironic and amusing that it completely makes my day.

From what you have written it suggests that you shouldn’t buy a PHEV from the Luddites in the city and the best option is to drive into Amish country to get a fair go with the latest technology.

love it.

@Dealers in Pennsylvania – even people surrounded by horse and cart can see the future why can’t you?

PS for those of you that think the US tax incentive program doesn’t work. Brubakers appears to have 3-4 volts for under $15k on their site. Auto-trader Australia has 1 volt (nationally) priced at $34k AUD! and 4 LEAF’s all above $25k AUD. The AUD and USD were at parity when these cars were shipped into the country. Carsales is not much better.

Clearly the carb regs and a lot of other incentives have played a part but you can almost get a new leaf in the US for less than a 2nd hand leaf in Aus.

Australia is a disgrace when it comes to clean energy. No incentives, no real initiatives, no understanding by the policy makers or the general population.
How can you expect sell EV’s in Australia when the prices are ludicrous and the charging infrastructure virtually nonexistent?
I love my Leaf, but it is a huge gamble in Australia to buy one.

I’m guessing both you two (JC & Jason) are in Australia?…

For anyone interested in EVs in Australia, head over to the aeva.asn.au (Oz EV assn)… It is very sobering for those of us fortunate enough to live in the US and much of Europe *and* be interested in EVs to see where Australia is with the EV revolution as it has an awful lot of catching up to do.

The news is not all bad, tho. For some reason (and I expect it is the doing of one particular forward-thinking individual – tho I have no idea who) the south west of Western Australia has (almost) a chain of rapid DC chargers from Perth to Albany (250 miles) sponsored/supported by the RAAC. Meanwhile right over on the other side of this vast country (and fully 1000 miles of nigh-on 100% sunshine away) Tesla is steadily expanding its SuperCharging network which currently stretches for 950 miles from Gold Coast (nearly ready) to Melbourne.

I bet Mr Musk is fair salivating over the prospect of bringing a Tesla factory for cars, storage and PV to this complete no-brainer of a market. Question is, why hasn’t some enterprising Aussie started already?

If you’re always looking for something between the lines you’ll find something whether it is there or not. Seriously doubt Spoonman was thinking or trying to imply that but pretty sure you were looking for it.

I think he’s just saying it’s pretty funny that the best EV service I found was from a dealership that doesn’t have email or their own website (they use Cars.com) and that had two horse-and-buggies in the parking lot when I arrived. (The Amish use notaries, it seems.)

And yes, the availability of used EVs at really good prices is a big success of the tax credit program.

I’ve mentioned this before, but I buy milk from an Amish farm, and they are modernizing. No electricity for the house, but they use electricity they make themselves (from diesel) for farm operations, and have plenty of diesel loaders. The farm I visit also has one small windmill, and one solar panel.

All the buggies now have LED headlights. Brighter and makes the battery last much longer. It will indeed be interesting to see if the Horse is ever electrified.

That was literally my experience too. I test drove two Chevy Volts and both had dead batteries and when I test drove the Cmax Energi it was dead too. Eventually bit the bullet and bought the Cmax, but still was a frustrating experience.

Over the years I have bought a number of cars and I’d describe most dealer experiences as negative. I’ve always done a lot of research about the car I want to buy and have known what I want. Two instances in particular stand out one where I went to 3 dealerships asking about the same car before we actually bought the car and one instance where the dealers were so bad I tried a different car which I ended up buying.

With that as a background I think these numbers are pretty good. It appears Nissan, Chevy, tesla, Audi and BMW are all in pretty good shape. Ford is a bit of a shocker and the only one that surprised me. I’d pay more to buy a car on the internet. I can’t afford a Tesla but there is a lot right about them.

That is certainly true. In each and every case that I bought a car over the last 20 years, I knew more about the car than the salesperson and the dealership. The dealership was far more concerned with selling me extended warranties and other scams than they were being knowledgable about their products.

The first car I bought at a dealer was 1994. In every single case except one whether new or used, the car dealer knew exactly nothing about the vehicle or in fact about cars in general or if they knew were being purposely deceptive. The single case where that was not the situation was in 2000 in Plano, TX I bought a Hyundai Elantra Wagon from the Hyundai/Chrysler dealer. The salesman has white hair and looked to be in his 60s. I had two small children. It was the last model year they made the wagon (until several years later) and were introducing their SUV for the first time. This was the last 2000 model wagon he had and the 2001 SUVs were already on the lot. He said he had a hard time getting the wagons but sold them all right away. I asked him why they quit making them. He said simple. Look at this. He showed me the ‘SUV’ which was the Santa Fe. He showed me that every single part was the same vehicle except they put some cladding around the wheel houses, jacked it in the air a couple inches, and optionally added AWD. The… Read more »

Dealerships make most money on maintenace and repairs and therefore they have no interest to sell EVs. It is almost like if your company is asking you to train a person that will replace you after they fire you. Aside of that, the commision is really low on EVs.

Why should there even be commission? A bogus profit for a bogus service. Cut out the middle man.

I bought a Leaf on a day when I intended to also drive a Volt.
One of the things I wanted was to drive the Volt on gas, as well as electric.

When I went to the local Mitsubishi dealership to test drive the Mitsubishi i-miev the car on the lot had a dead battery and wouldn’t start.

When I went to the Nissan dealership they had no idea that Nissan was giving out quick chargers and that the cars could take 20 minutes to charge. Several weeks later after telling them about the free quick chargers the Nissan dealership got a DC quick charger.

oh. So Mitsu dealership had iMiev with dead battery. Now we know why it sells at such a low rate.

And I don’t know whey they want to sell that same model in 2017 and don’t want to introduce the Outlander Plugin.

Several months ago I talked to a local Volt owner. The Chevy dealers in this city won’t even bring in a Volt unless the customer pays for it all in advance.

…and how bad would the numbers be if not done in ZEV states? About twice as bad or half as good, depending on how you view your glass of water.

Now you know why Tesla wants to sell directly instead of using the dealers.

Cars are about 18% more expensive than they need to be, and still make a profit. Albeit a very small one. Dealerships account for about 6% of that overage. The legacy dealers represent an archaic model for producing and selling cars. JMO.

Now remember, this is the experience that the NADA says that everyone loves and would not trade it for anything.

If by “everyone” you mean dealerships.

Neither Volt I leased had anything close to a full charge when I picked them up, and both had advance notice that I was coming. ICE dealers suck. Most are mad they have to deal with electric cars at all.

I finally got a test drive of a Volt 2.0 a couple weeks ago here in Houston (after months of waiting). Car had just gotten in, they hadn’t had time to prep it, 4 miles on it. So no charge yet. I give them a pass since it was a the dealer for less than an hour when I got there.

I was impressed with how it drove and so was the sales guy. Don’t think he had every been in a Volt before.

Ultimately I didn’t pull the trigger on a lease. There was no incentive on 24 month, and the best he could do on a 36 month was $635/mo, zero down. The full TT&L on leases in Texas really make the math tough on plug-ins.

I am going to continue to hold out and plan on Model 3, LEAF 2.0, or Bolt 18 months from now.

This report is no surprise to me. EV is still very specialised car even 5+ years of them generally being available. If you just child call and expect the car to be charged, I think you take your chances, just like if you cold call for that exclusive model you have the risk one is not in stock to look at.
Do the exercise again, but call the day before to setup the appointment, then see if the dealer paid attention and had the car ready for a drive.
I think that is probably more realistic of how EV purchase is likely to happen as EV buyer has a bit more of an idea about it than the dealer does.

True story –

I went to test drive a C-Max Energi at my local dealer a couple of years ago. They had a black one that was marked down pretty good. I showed up, told them I was interested in test driving the C-Max, and the sales rep said he’d bring it out front.

10 minutes later, I was like “wtf, it shouldn’t take this long”. I walked outside and looked back to where the sales guy had disappeared to, and I see in the distance a black C-Max. I squint, and see my sales rep, and 2 other guys PUSHING the C-Max towards me.

After asking them what was wrong, it turned out that C-Max was out of charge AND out of gas.

I was thinking, “WOW, great first impression guys!”. This was an “EV-certified” Ford dealership too.

I bet they ran it out of gas while it still had some battery charge, and then parked it and the battery discharged the rest of the way just sitting there on the lot.

Thought that cars on the dealers’ lots were always out of gas because they were just stingy, but I wonder if it has something to do with safety and with the gas going stale if left unsold for many months.

Don’t know much about gas cars, not anymore 🙂

Being that I have solar and 240v in the garage I felt I could get rid of my golf cart and upgrade to a used electric car. After only 5 minutes at the dealership I had the feeling somethings wrong. When I left with my tail between my legs because I wouldn’t buy a compact car that was a very good deal. ( and I thought it was) When leaving it seemed like I was getting the finger from the sales person. Bad experience I won’t forget soon. Bgt a leaf form a private party and I’m happy and that’s all that matters!

I’ll play contrarian and reverse the statistical presentation:

“86% of EV dealers had at least one EV adequately charged for a test-drive (as did 78% of Chevy and 79% of Nissan EV dealers)”

“67% of EV dealers discussed state and federal EV tax incentives”

“50% of EV dealers discussed on-road fueling/charging”

“58% of EV dealers had an EV prominently displayed”.

I’m seeing decisive gains with EV presentation and representations compared to just a few years back.

These stats belie the myths that MOST dealers with at least one EV are:

– “Hiding” EV’s in the back lot.
– Don’t keep one charged for test-drives
– Don’t know or understand the tax incentives
– Don’t know or understand about travel charging issues.

Yes, there are still a lot of dealers and sales reps who don’t understand the hows and whys of EV marketing, but those numbers are diminishing every year and are no longer the majority.

Remember there is bias in the study, it only includes the 10 ZEV states. So California is heavily over represented in the study.

Repeat the study in the other 40 states and the results will be much worse.

Wow. Our closest Nissan dealership (there’s about 10 in our metro area) completely bucks this trend. They currently have 3 or 4 Leafs prominently displayed on the front line of the lot facing the busy thoroughfare. Every time my wife’s brought our car into the dealership for anything at all, she’s spoken to one of the sales guys there that actually has a clue about the vehicle. He always asks if she’s had any trouble and genuinely wants to know about her experience. There has been more than one occasion where he’s been busy selling a Leaf to a potential sale, and my wife was introduced to them as another happy Leaf customer.

And we didn’t even buy the car there! We just bring it in to change the tires to winters and for the regularly scheduled maintenance.