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NY Auto Show test drive track
Dealers can use test drives to sway customers toward BEVs.

Dealers Should Prep As Buyers Focus on Mainstream EVs

Dealers play key roles in fueling BEV sales, especially as shoppers look at mainstream choices.

Some dealers suggest they are not as “all in” on the transition to battery-electric vehicles as industry leaders suggest. Yet analysts contend that dealers can adapt and sway customers to green offerings without too much struggle.

A few morsels from the upcoming J.D. Power Electric Vehicle Considerations study underscore the growth of customer interest in BEVs. The top three BEVs shoppers consider all come from “mainstream” automakers. Tesla’s failure to rank that high is a change from previous years, Elizabeth Krear, vice president-Electric Vehicle Practice, J.D. Power, tells Wards.

 “We’re on an exponential curve right now. Tesla started selling cars just over 10 years ago, and that’s a short time in the grand scheme of things,” Krear (pictured, below left) says. “But now is the time where we have so much product in the mainstream. I think the ecosystem is beginning to feel it at a much faster speed.”Elizabeth Krear

While BEV purchases account for only about 5% of the market, dealers who invest in training front-line staff to answer questions about electric offerings and provide test drives, have good chances of boosting that rate. The J.D. Power Ownership Study found that EVs’ smooth and quiet-driving performance is crucial in sales.

J.D. Power and the National Automobile Dealers Assn. joined with the New York International Auto Show to sponsor a multi-brand BEV test track at the nine-day event. Passersby routinely saw groups of dealers and other attendees watching and waiting to test a Chevrolet Bolt, Kia EV6, Nissan Leaf or other battery-electric vehicle.

“We found customers are three times more likely to consider an EV if they simply ride in one,” says Krear. “So, get customers to take test drives. That’s not a large investment, and it enhances the dealership’s status in the community. Franchised dealers are arguably better positioned than any other stakeholders to capitalize on customer experience opportunities.”

Staff should point out the positives of the specific models they sell, even those they consider common knowledge. Simple charging, roomy cabins and under-the-hood storage are key selling points.

“Many customers have never seen a charging station up close, let alone used one,” Krear says. “So by having that charging station in the showroom, it allows the customers to experience firsthand how easy and clean it is to use.”

Fast-charging options, range, federal and local tax credits, utility company incentives and discounts and overall price of the vehicle should be among the talking points in each dealership.

“Customers are seeking information relative to the total value proposition of owning an EV,” she says. “Sales staff can assist by having this information readily available in their local regions.”

TAGS: Retail
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