Electric vehicles should be a no-brainer for most consumers. While somewhat pricier during initial purchase, in the long run, electric cars save most drivers thousands, particularly in gas expenses. Additionally, electric cars are usually safer, more up-to-date and eco-friendly than diesel and gas vehicles. For this reason, electric car sales are on the rise, with more being sold every year.

However, even with this increase, studies around the world have shown that dealerships are not actively pushing electric vehicle sales. Mystery shoppers sent to dealerships in the US found that most salespeople weren’t equipped to talk about electric vehicles and instead tried to steer them towards traditional models. Many dealerships didn’t have electric cars on display or available to be test driven.

This finding isn’t unique to the United States. A similar study conducted by the University of Sussex in Scandinavian countries–including Denmark, Sweden, and Norway–turned up similar results. Few dealers there voluntarily brought up electric cars as options, and some even actively tried to steer customers away from electric vehicles if they were brought up. Research in China–where dealers have government incentives to sell electric to help decrease the county’s pollutants–found that they similarly tried to dissuade customers from making an electric car purchase.

The obvious question is, why? Why are dealerships not trying to move their electric merchandise in the same way as their gas and diesel? The answer seems to stem from two areas: ease of sales and lack of familiarity.

While the mystery shoppers in the studies mentioned above were all informed about electric cars and tasked with asking after them at dealerships, many customers are not as well informed or prompted. They’re looking for a vehicle and can quickly be sold a familiar brand or model. Trying to sell them an electric car, while beneficial on both ends of the deal, would take a considerable amount of time. The salesperson would have to invest in explaining how an electric car works, the differences between the makes available, the pros and cons attached to the purchase, and so on. If a client has no familiarity with electric driving, they’ll also need a lot more reassurance before making a purchase. So for the sake of making a sale, it is easier for most dealerships to stick with what their clients generally know and look for.

Related to this last point, most dealers themselves cannot knowledgeably talk up an electric car. This technology is still new enough that dealers are forgiven for being behind in the latest news and stats regarding electric vehicles.

That said, it is shortsighted to ignore them. Currently, not only are there cash benefits for those buying electric vehicles but many states, like Connecticut, offer dealerships monetary incentives for selling them as part of environmental programs. Electric car sales could net the salesperson an extra $300.

Not only that, but the way things are going in tech and gas sectors, experts predict that it won’t be long before there’s an industry-wide shift in automotive. Dealerships that start acclimating themselves and their sales staff to electric vehicles will have an edge when consumer demand goes up for those models, and as more models become available. Though it might not be easy, an investment in electric car education could end up making the difference between success and failure for dealerships in the future.

1 COMMENT

  1. The writer of this article makes assumptions about dealers and salespeople without offering supporting facts. For example, who is going to pay the salesperson an extra $300 on the sale of an electric? The dealer, the manufacturer, the government? Also, it is very important to educate the customer about new technology and its benefits but at the same time a salesperson must make a living and pay bills so yes it is important to sell what consumers are familiar with as well. Finally, the majority of consumers are not forward thinking enough to be interested in a long term payoff for a new higher cost technology for many reasons, monthly budget and the fact they will likely trade again in 3-4 years before realizing the payoff. Certainly electric and alternative fuel vehicles will be the future but there are many hurdles to cross before they are truly a replacement for internal combustion power plants. And I do like the idea of them becoming more mainstream when the infrastructure is in place and when the technology has matured to the point that range is not an issue. Please provide facts to back up conclusions in the future.

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