Some dealers not dealing very well with electric vehicles

We know that some car dealers are doing much better than others when it comes to selling electrics vehicles.

Like Serra Chevrolet in Southfield, which put up two electricity-generating windmills on its lot to promote its business—and they’re generating more than power. Serra leads all dealers in Volt sales, averaging 25 a month when we last looked.

used car lotBut not all dealers are doing such a good job, according to media reports published earlier this month.

(photo credit: flickr/thomashawk)

“Car dealers have been problematic for electric car sales,” our friend John Voelcker from Green Car Reports wrote in a guest blog on the Christian Science Monitor earlier this month. “For example, plug-in electric cars typically require more explanation to buyers, which makes them less appealing for dealers to sell.”

Voelcker cited data from a presentation at the University of Michigan in July by Luke Tonachel, senior analyst from the New York-based Natural Resources Defense Council, who said that potential EV buyers are turned off by their experience at car dealers, primarily because dealership personnel aren’t well trained or motivated to sell electric vehicles.

Research at the University of California-Davis has found that 83 percent of consumers are dissatisfied with the process of buying an EV, compared with a 25 percent dissatisfaction rate for those shopping for conventional vehicles.

“There weren’t people on staff who understand the technology or how to explain it,” Tonachel said. “Consumers coming in had more knowledge than the people they were buying the vehicles from. There are people coming in to dealerships who are very enthusiastic, but yet they are being turned off by someone who doesn’t really know the technology.

Even worse than the sales staff not understanding what makes the cars tick? Consumer Reports recently sent “secret shoppers” to dealerships and found in over 40 percent of the time dealers pushed them to buy a conventional gasoline vehicle instead of an EV.

So now that we know that the dealers might be the weak link in the chain of getting this great technology (a lot of it from here in Michigan) out on the road, how do we fix it?

Events like the upcoming National Electric Drive Week, an annual showcase for electric vehicles that’s attracting more participants every year, are a great way to educate more consumers to make the right choice.