Amid industry recovery, changing consumer buying habits and new challenges, a once-niche segment has become more top-of-mind for OEMs: electric vehicles.
Despite IHS Markit reports on electric vehicle sales reaching record levels in 2020, some dealers are still hesitant to fully embrace the segment, often jaded by past negative experiences or long-held misconceptions of a fully electric future being far off.
An Electric Future is Already Here
Let’s be clear: we’re already living in “an electric future.” EVs are here to stay, which means proactive dealers will have the upper hand now and in years to come. Between now and 2025, IHS Markit forecasts that more than 100 new EV options are expected to be introduced, coinciding with recent OEM investment in electrification to reach carbon neutrality and increased government policies/mandates.
Major brands will continue to follow in the footsteps of automotive giants like General Motors, Volvo and Jaguar who have all announced their plans for going all-electric. Undoubtedly, these announcements come as pressure from politicians mounts against President Joe Biden to set a firm date to phase out internal combustion engines by 2035.
Alongside the brands committing to their unique BEV targets over the next 5-10 years stand consumers ready to make the shift, as well.
A Data-Driven Approach to Customer Communication
The success of electric vehicles isn’t purely tied to government mandates – consumer adoption of EVs also reached new heights in 2020. While the surge was largely concentrated in a select few DMAs, IHS Markit forecasts EV sales to grow by 70% in 2021.
For today’s dealers, loyal customers will be critical to this growth. According to IHS Markit, more than half of EV households that return to the new vehicle market acquire another, making EV customers a HUGE loyalty opportunity for dealers.
By taking a data-driven approach, auto dealers can begin proactively preparing for their future electric car sales today by focusing on four key pillars.
- Know your market: By understanding the unique audience at-hand, dealers are more equipped to effectively market and sell EVs. Knowing the role loyalty customers play in this segment, dealerships can target previous EV buyers with personalized messaging based on specific factors like early trade-in offers, OEM incentives or the newest electric models.
- Prepare your infrastructure: With the acceleration toward digital retailing over the last year, it’s crucial to consider how the online and in-person sales experience will need to evolve alongside changing buying behaviors and consumer needs. The showroom floor should be a resource center for consumer education. Display your current EV portfolio or available charging solutions to fuel conversation. At the same time, online vehicle descriptions should speak directly to consumer concerns, such as limited range, access to charging solutions, etc.
- Build your team: Assess whether your current staff has the skills to adapt alongside your dealership. Tech-savvy, open-minded individuals who are ready to embrace the evolving industry landscape are critical. This may require additional recruitment and looking at candidates outside the realm of those with dealership experience. Consider candidates with retail and hospitality experience to bring a new and unique experience to dealership sales.
- Ramp up your customer education: Knowing consumers have common objections to electric vehicles – affordability, driving range, service and maintenance costs – be sure your dealership’s messaging speaks to these concerns. Additionally, ensure your staff is also educated, bought in and comfortable addressing customer concerns. Increase communication between marketing, service and sales teams to support a cohesive customer experience from the top down.
As consumer buying habits continue to evolve – both in the way audiences shop and the vehicles they shop for – so will the ways dealers need to adapt. Get started with our guide.