Study Of 11 Automakers Finds Inconsistencies In EV Shopping Experience


 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.

EV Shopping

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

Categories: General


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61 Comments on "Study Of 11 Automakers Finds Inconsistencies In EV Shopping Experience"

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PHEVs should be at least half-charged when on the lot, so they’re ready for test drives. I don’t get why this is hard – especially at a dealership with a 10 on Plugshare.

I suggest calling an hour or two ahead, and asking your salesman to plug in whatever PHEV you want to test drive.

I would not call them to put fuel into their stinkers either so, sorry, not my responsibility.

Have to say that all EVs i tested here in austria were chargedd to >=80%

Mine knew I was coming days ahead and still it was empty. You could tell by the spider web between the car and the ground that it hadn’t been driven in a while. I had to test drive on hybrid mode.

BMW dealerships can be 100% opposites.
One dealership couldn’t car less about the i3, the other will work with you to get you discounts and into the car.

Same with Chevy and, I suspect, all the others. Hopefully this is just a minor growing pain in the EV revolution.

Yep, the BMW dealer I got my i3 from moves lots and lots of them so they are well versed in how to sell them. The others that I tried to buy it from did not seem to know or care at all. Same goes for the Nissan dealer I got my Leaf from.

Before putting a deposit down on the Model 3, I test drove the Model S, BMW i3, and Mercedes B-Class Electric. The Model S was the easiest test drive ever. I created an appointment with zero intentions to buy (mind changed 8 months later) and told them frankly up front, yet they still spent an hour with me. The BMW dealership was okay. The salesperson didn’t care at all about it, and kept telling me during the test drive how amazing the BMW M2 was (during my EV test drive…). I had to visit two Mercedes dealerships to even find one. The first place was very rude, the second place was pulling teeth to get them to bring up the car so I could test drive it.

Yep, Tesla identified this as a major problem 10 years ago.

Sad to see that little progress has been made.

I went to order a RAV4-EV from a dealer in the bay area, and was told: “You don’t want that. The batteries only last a couple of years and cost 20k to replace”.

I was shocked at the time to see such a hard anti-sell from a car dealer.

So your electric vehicle shopping experience was shocking? I detect a pun, there. I’ve given up going into an auto dealership ever again. The last time I went in was to get a closer look at a Volkswagen CC. I was very clear I wasn’t looking to replace my Tesla (which was in the guest parking). They were really confused and I left because the whole “I just want to look” concept was difficult for them. In fact, I went when it was slow and was swarmed by sales staff. Nowadays, if I want to see a new EV, I go to a local EV owner’s club meeting or the Tesla club meetings, and the EVs come to me, usually with an educated salesman. The right salesperson knows that someone who owns a Tesla may want a second EV that is less expensive. There are, in fact, plenty of Leaf-as-a-second-EV owners in the Tesla club. Most lease their Leaf due to the whole air-cooled battery thing. Someday, buyers will discover what it is like to buy a car without the usual dealer games that get played. I think the only downside is the net effect of scarcity on inflatable gorilla’s… Read more »

I’m sure they thought you saying you weren’t interested in buying was just you using a negotiating technique, and they didn’t really believe you. They sell cars to people every day who say they are “just looking” or “not interested in buying”.

Sales people have a term for this: “Buyers are Liars” (google it).

The idea is that going to a dealership is such a lousy experience, that people would be crazy to step foot onto a dealership unless they were actually thinking of buying a car. So your mere presence on the dealership means to them that they just need to find the right angle to sell you a car, or you wouldn’t be there in the first place.

Since the batteries have an 8 year warranty he better be wrong or Toyota goes bankrupt on warranty work.

Some dealers are great. Many are worse than horrible. Got both our EVs from really good Los Angeles area dealers even though we live 100 miles from there.

Our local dealer would not even do a company-mandated warranty fix on my car’s computer, even though I had a letter direct from the company about the issue. They tried to charge me for it at first, then when I refused to pay (because the letter explicity stated no charge), the service guy went to his manager and said the manager said my car wasn’t affected. Total lie. Never going back to them.

I went to the dealer where I bought it and not only did they do the repair no questions asked and free, but they were polite, professional and fast. Also they were stunned that I had been refused at my local dealer.

Either the factory is underpaying dealers for that warranty work, or that dealer is making much more on scheduled service and is understaffed and are trying to push you to goto some other dealer for the warranty work. That way they can keep their service margins high.

Unfortunately bonuses for service managers are typically tied to margin, so if they aren’t profiting enough on certain warranty work, they will try and avoid doing those warranty repairs. Other dealerships who manage to increase their margins through doing warranty work will fight like crazy to get the factory to authorize that same warranty work.

It wasn’t just me or just warranty work. They guy behind me with an ICE vehicle and normal repair was totally getting the runaround also. They couldn’t even find his paperwork.

I know I won’t go back and I doubt he will either. So their focus on keeping repair margins high is shortsighted; they would do better to treat customers right and get more repeat business.

Well my Chevy dealer didn’t know the Bolt even existed.

Same with Hyundai dealers in Pennsylvania regarding the IONIQ.
They seem to think it’s only a hybrid.

I don’t really blame them, since it is “available in California” but only in the LA area.

San Francisco Bay Area has a “few” EV’s on the road, but according to the Hyundai website, not a single dealer has one.

Go to
to see the Dealerships who can sell the Ioniq Electric.

My local Chevy dealer didn’t understand why he couldn’t plug in a quick charger to a Bolt without the quick charge option. I also scared him when I test drove the car and didn’t use the brakes. Well, I used them once while backing up out of a parking spot.

My Chevy dealer *fill in story here*.

… won’t even carry the Bolt because they don’t want to upgrade their service department. I’m not going to drive 3 hours to Portland to buy one as service would be a major hassle.

Sounds like you live in Bend also?

…was excited about the Bolt and couldn’t wait to get me in one. But I bought the used Spark EV on their lot instead. Which later they tried to get me to come in for free oil changes for,…ah well. So close.

My GM dealer told me when I asked about EV’s to go to the next big city as they did not want to deal in them. This next big city was only 50km away.
I have never gone back to this dealer and will never will.

My Chevy dealer is Criswell in Gaithersburg MD. I got my Volt there in 2013 and even then they had 8 or 9 of them on the lot. They had a Volt specialist, Mike Furman, who is also their top Corvette salesman. He owns a couple Vette’s but he daily driver is a Volt. They kept several Volts with just 5 miles on the pack and others topped off, but they wanted you to start out on the electric motor and then hear the gas genset kick on so you could compare.
I told them what I wanted to pay and Mike walked it by the manager and we were done in half an hour, including paper work. Manager stopped by half way through and chatted with us about cars, pickups and motorcycles we had owned.
Great dealer, great salesman, great car. I get 930 mpg, plus I use about $20 worth of electricity a month.

Great story! Nice to hear the salesperson went that extra mile with the low-charged Volts.

Feel free to come over to the Forum and share it as well.

Rewrote my Volt lease and forged my signature before sending to bank, with 4000 fewer miles than the original.

So you got a good Chevy dealership.

(⌐■_■) Trollnonymous

lol……. you funny guy.

And you didn’t take them to court? Or at least report that to the BBB?

Dealership is a shrinking business like all retail stores. More and more people will buy cars based on reviews and reports from the internet.

I bought my last 4 cars without test drive because I trust the brand and I did a lot of study on the internet.

3 EVs I bought meet and exceed my exception. BMW 535i was a disappointment, glad I leased that one.

This won’t come as a surprise to any of us. Pretty much 98% of every EV on the road is a result of a customer actually going to a dealership and ASKING to buy it. I think once we start to move up that S-Curve, this paradigm will change. Imagine what will happen when customers start showing up to dealerships to look at a car, and the salesperson shows them an EV first instead of a gas car. Imagine for a moment how that will change everything.

Obviously Tesla changes that. I’d say the next two closest companies on ‘we know how to sell these’ are Toyota which of course has a long hybrid experience and is easily translatable to selling PHEVs and EVs (in my opinion. The second is BMW. BMW has now the most complete (and expanding) line of PHEVs. Even though they are bashed a great deal around here, they will likely shortly have the most knowledgeable/helpful EV/PHEV sales people (besides Tesla) due to the full line of offerings

The local Toyota dealer here in Bend OR definitely doesn’t understand squat about PHEV’s. Barely new there was a difference between the Prius Prime and regular Prius. Didn’t seem to understand test driving a regular Prius wasn’t good enough. Or that the hatch area was impacted by the battery.

“He told me he was trying to get the key for me to drive the gasoline-powered model.” To be fair, this isn’t exclusive to just EV’s. Car salesmen will always try to jam you into what they have in inventory, because that is their job. If you want a manual transmission and they don’t have one, they will try to jam you into an automatic. If you want a stripped down model and they don’t have one, they will try to jam you into a car with lots of options. If you want a diesel truck and they don’t have one, they will try to jam you into a gasser. If you want an EV and they don’t have one, they will try to jam you into the ICE version. This really isn’t exclusive to EV’s, it is a symptom of the Dealer Lot Inventory sales method. It has become a more and more antiquated sales methodology, whether the drivetrain is ICE or gas. And it isn’t just cars anymore. It is the difference between going to your local small retail store for something, and having a few of what you are looking for to choose from, or going on… Read more »

All true. Especially the manual. These days in the US, typically the stick only comes in the extremely low margin base model of a vehicle. Yeah…try getting the guy to call you when they are able to get their hands on one. It worked one time. Exactly once for me. And I will never forget it. Elderly white haired salesman at Huffines in Plano, TX. Incredibly helpful gentleman. I ended up going back 6 months later and getting another new car from him. He also tried to actively look up any/all discounts I might be eligible for. Asked me where I work…nope that’s no good. How about your wife, where does she work…I told him and said it’s just part time. Well hey that employer has a fleet pricing deal with us. Let me knock some more money off for you. I swear that’s true. Unsolicited discounts after I had already told him I was going to purchase it.

Most dealerships are just as crappy selling ICE autos. Why would we expect any difference just because it’s electric?

I think Tesla is a somewhat misleading point of comparison, as Tesla only sells three car models and does not currently offer any “loss-leader”-type products. The only car they’ve ever sold that fit that description was the Model S 40kWh, which was cancelled before the first unit was delivered.

Where the rubber will meet the road is when Tesla has the base M3 for sale. Then we’ll see if Tesla salespeople do the same “Oh, we’re out of those, but would you like to try this AWD Model 3 long-range instead?”

The Model S40 supposedly only accounted for 4% of overall sales when they cancelled it, claiming it didn’t make sense to create a 40kWh battery for 4% of production. If you have to order a Model 3 similar to the Model S (custom, not inventory), then what they have available in stock doesn’t matter for the salesperson.

Tesla doesn’t rely upon a Dealer Lot Inventory sales system. Once they begin production of a build configuration, there is no “being out” of that configuration. You make your build order choices and it gets built for you. They never had your car on a lot in the first place, so they can’t be “out” of it.

Why is this concept so confusing to some people?

Saturn started that way too…
You want it, sure no problem, let’s do the paperwork, six weeks later…pick it up.

And people still doubt Tesla’s future.

The only car I ever bought new from a dealership was my Saturn (my Tesla doesn’t count; I bought it online). The whole walk-in-and-see-the-no-haggle-price-you’ll-pay-right-there-on-the-wall thing is what sold me over the competing Dodge Neon. (Well, that and the plastic panels.) That was in ’95. As I understand it, it wasn’t a “dealership” IE franchised, but owned and run directly by Saturn.

The last time I was at my local Nissan dealer was back in June (2017). I was there for scheduled maintenance on my leased Leaf. They had one Leaf ‘S’ model. It was a 2016 sitting in a corner of the showroom near the service department. I opened and closed doors, hatch and hood. I tried out the back seat and sat in the driver’s seat while texting my wife. I never had anyone approach and ask if I was interested. They just ignored me.

“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”.

“Rather than search for, or order, the desired vehicle, many shoppers are pressed to accept what is availablel”

In my experience, this is true of dealerships in general, not just when shopping for EVs. You really need to shop around different dealers and read reviews and get personal references.

The full report requires purchase to read. 🙁

Yeah, it would be nice to see the whole thing. Apparently, it also includes video from some of the different trips.

It probably costs several thousand dollars.

This article and the report summary focuses on the negative, but as the title of “inconsistent” would imply, there must be some good news.

Most dealers suck at selling just about all cars, regardless of whether it is gas, diesel or electric. In fact, they will often push buyers to something else even if buyers come into to ask for a particular model. So, that is just typical dealership “experience” that nobody likes. Why do you think GM created the “Saturn” model in the first place? Because people were sick and tired of stupid dealers.. Try to buy a diesel Cruze in most Chevy dealers and see if they do any better than a Bolt or Volt. “if” there is somehow a dealer that sells Tesla, I am willing to bet that they will be pushing buyers toward the P versions as well. At the end of the day, the dealer’s job is to maximize their profit where the buyer’s intent is to minimize their cost. That is just the nature of the “game”. Of course, many people don’t like that “game”. What Tesla does is to “level” the field for all buyers so those who don’t like to play the game or don’t play well won’t worry that they somehow paid more for the same car compared with their sleezy neighbor who is… Read more »

FWIW, Carter Chevy in Manchester CT has a Bolt on their showroom floor, right next to the Vette! I was so impressed when I saw this. Ct is not a heavily EV populated state. No incentives either.

Full disclosure: I have no ties to this company and gain nothing from this comment, except for the pride of knowing my “local” dealer is into EV’s and is an exception to the norm.

CT actually has a decent EV incentive. Payable at sale too, not when you file taxes.

Only annoying thing about it is you have to buy from a CT dealer.

Regarding dealers whose staffs appear to be clueless or disinterested in EVs: In some cases it may be ignorance, but I would bet that some of the owners/managers of these dealers have told their sales folks to discourage EV sales. EVs are an existential threat to dealerships, and some dealers must realize this by now. Dealerships make their profits off their service departments — NOT their car sales. EV’s don’t need much service, so dealers with this mindset see ZERO incentive to promote EVs.

It’s a structural problem that is going to hinder EV sales for all the legacy car makers.

Exceptions exist, but the franchise dealership sales model is actual ability to close the deal, not to make a profit…In many cases such as to sell the Bolt EV, you need to install a DCFC charger pay to have a service tech certified in the Bolt EV…Also usually dealerships pay interest on vehicles rotting on the lots…For these reasons it makes far more sense from a leadership perspective to not sell EVs in the first vs trying to anti-sell them…

Dealerships make more than 30% of their profit from financial services. (Leases, loans, extended warranties, etc). And about 25% of their profit is from used car sales. There is still money to be had selling EVs and the dealerships that figure this out, will survive. The others? Good riddance.

They should install public DCFC chargers and have cafes and comfortable lounges to hang out in while the vehicle charges. Earn a bit of cash on coffee and snacks and product marketing.

Chevy dealer did a decent job facilitating my Volt purchase 2 years ago. I went with the intention of buying the Volt. Drove off with a nearly discharged batter but a full tank of gas. The dealership policy was every car goes out with a full tank of gas. Took me almost a year to intentionally use that gas.

Assuming they even have a L2, did you have 4.5 hours (if 240v) or 5.5 hours (if 208v)?

This study is important, but insideevs should not publish a story that is based on such scant information.

Ipsos decided to release basically zero useful information from their study, only as a teaser to get people to buy the full report or subscribe.

Can you imagine them making a press release about, say, an election poll, telling us only who’s leading, without the margin, change from last poll, key crosstabs, etc.?

This press release suggests that like traditional automakers, Ipsos too thinks people interested in EVs are chumps.

There has been several of these reports before…Usually they result in nothing…

There are far more effective for dealers to anti-sell EVs…Imagine if a person showed up to a Chevy dealership to test drive a Bolt and was told:

“Our Bolts just overheated as they’re not liquid cooled like the Leaf”

Person would have a meltdown and would most likely never visit that dealership ever again…

(⌐■_■) Trollnonymous


The good news is that here in Norway where EVs have become mainstream, the dealers have finally got their act together. A few years ago they would try to sell you a fossil fuel vehicle instead, but their businesses have evolved.