Dealers Invest in EV Inventory but Not Training

A knowledge gap keeps EVs on the lots, experts contend.

Jim Henry, Contributor

May 28, 2024

3 Min Read
Auto shoppers need more EV information.Getty Images

Dealerships need to work harder to train their staff so they can educate shoppers who have a rudimentary understanding of EVs and EV ownership, including public and home charging options.

Today’s shoppers are unlike the first wave of EV early adopters, who often walked into the showroom fully informed and presold on the concept.

“Clearly, there’s room for dealer education,” says Renee Slocum, senior strategic insights consultant, U.S. Automotive & Mobility, for Paris-based market research firm Ipsos.

Slocum acknowledges dealers are well aware of the need for more dealership training and the opportunity it presents dealers to be the primary source of EV advice for mainstream shoppers.

Still, dealership education “needs to be addressed,” she says.

Some data points suggest room for dealerships to improve, reports Ipsos. For example, Ipsos says only 9% of EV buyers surveyed cite the salesperson as their top source of information vs. 17% for all other buyers. Also, EV buyers rate their sales experience and their salesperson 10% lower than other buyers.

For its part, the National Automobile Dealers Assoc. says its franchised dealer members have already invested more than $6 billion in EV inventory alone. NADA also expects franchised dealers to invest another $5 billion in facilities, service equipment, chargers and training by the end of the decade.

In February, NADA launched a dealership sales training and certification program (click here for details) aimed at improving the customer experience for EV buyers. Topics include incentives available for purchase and expertise in setting up home charging.

Dealership training is urgent as evidenced by market research that shows an unwelcome pause in the rate of increase among U.S. new-car shoppers who would consider an EV for their next new-vehicle purchase.

Ipsos reports 48% of shoppers it surveyed would consider an EV purchase. That’s flat for the past three years after strong growth in 2021 and 2022.

A separate J.D. Power report shows that for the first time since its U.S. EV Consideration Study was launched in 2021, fewer shoppers say they are likely or very likely to purchase an EV vs. a year ago; the combined total was 58% in the 2024 study, down from 61% in 2023.

Only about 5% of shoppers who aren’t considering an EV choose “lack of helpful information” from the dealership as a reason to reject EVs, Stewart Stropp, J.D. Power’s executive director of EV Intelligence, tells WardsAuto.

That’s one of the lowest reasons for rejection cited, he says. The primary reason, cited by just over half of the respondents, is lack of charging availability, followed by purchase price, Stropp says.

Meanwhile, Atlanta-based Cox Automotive reports 45% of new-vehicle shoppers are considering an EV in the next year, down from 51% in 2022.

David Undercoffler, head of Consumer Insights at CarGurus, Cambridge, MA, says dealers will remedy the gap, if any, in customer experience for EV buyers compared to buyers of gas-powered vehicles.

“Dealers know the value of training their salespeople to be trustworthy sources of information for shoppers who are encountering EVs for the first time,” he tells WardsAuto. “I’d expect this difference in experience at the dealership for EV shoppers vs. ICE shoppers to narrow in the near future.”

About the Author(s)

Jim Henry


Jim Henry is a freelance writer and editor, a veteran reporter on the auto retail beat, with decades of experience writing for Automotive News, WardsAuto,, and others. He's an alumnus of the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill, where he was a Morehead-Cain Scholar. 

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