The Art of the EV Deal

Sales, F&I that show their EV chops can make the sale.

Alysha Webb, Contributor

September 15, 2023

4 Min Read
Dealers' commitment to the lifespan of customers' EVs is vital to sales, loyalty.Getty Images

Customer commitment to lifespan of EV is vital.

There are best practices when selling electric vehicles that can not only boost sales but also establish a long-term relationship with the EV owner, say consultants and dealers.

“If (a dealership) can’t get to sales to the mass market and its salespeople can’t answer some pretty basic questions that are outside their usual product knowledge, then I think their chances of selling an EV and building the adoption rate will be much lower,” Mark Barrott, a Plante Moran partner and leader of the consultancy’s automotive/mobility practice, tells Wards.

He lists five best practices for selling EVs:

 1. Salespeople must be able to engage and answer concerns and questions that are not product-specific.

2. The F&I department must be up to speed on incentives and dynamic pricing from OEMs.

3. The dealership must endeavor to build a long-term relationship with the EV owner.

4. The dealership must have a commitment to the EV ownership life cycle, including sales, servicing, parts and ultimately resale of the vehicle.

5. The physical infrastructure at a dealership must incorporate electrification, including charging stations and equipment for servicing EVs. 

These are especially important for legacy automakers, adds Barrott.

EV shoppers generally fall into two broad categories: those who have done all the research and know what they want, and those who are open to buying or leasing an EV but need to be sold on the idea.

“Not all buyers are created equal in terms of their knowledge when they go into dealerships,” he says.

The salesperson needs to be knowledgeable about EVs for the first type of buyer, who has done a lot of research. However, the sales process is still similar to selling a traditional internal-combustion-engine vehicle, says Barrott.

The second type – the customer who needs to be sold on the idea of buying an EV – is an entirely different story.

Suppose the salesperson can’t explain to this potential EV buyer the benefits of ownership including total cost of ownership, different types of EVs, charging processes and potential charging discounts and other information. In that case, he says the customer will likely buy an internal-combustion-engine vehicle.

“In the discussions we’ve had, a lot of dealers failed that test,” he says. “In those instances, the consumer defaults to what they know and what they are comfortable with. That is a headwind for EV sales.”

The F&I office also must be up to speed on tax and other EV-purchase incentives, as well as “dynamic” manufacturer pricing, says Barrott.

EVs involve less aftersales service, so dealerships should strive to build a long-term relationship with owners based on the entire EV lifecycle.

That includes having EV charging at a dealership, complete EV service tools and continuing to provide the owner with useful EV-related information, including resale value, he says.

“The dealer needs to be committed to all of those things if it is really going to be successful in selling EVs,” says Barrott.

Validation equals a sale.

 BMW of El Cajon, in Southern California, is all-in on best practices to sell more EVs, the dealership’s general sales manager Mathew Daymude tells Wards.

“Our whole play is, everybody is going to have (EVs), but who is going to do the best for the customer, who is going to have all the answers?” he says.“We decided we would be that story.”

Sales managers and advisors at all BMW dealerships must complete four to six training segments each quarter, and 90% are related to EV sales, says Daymude. But his dealership goes beyond that.

The BMW of El Cajon team receives quarterly training about the California Clean Fuel Reward Program, which has the latest information on home charging installation, charging discounts and the like.

An owner of an EV purchased at BMW of El Cajon receives two years of free charging as well as “a wealth of knowledge on the (EV) lifestyle,” says Daymude. That includes information on range anxiety “that is going to creep in from time to time,” he says.  

The dealership has four DC fast-charging connectors on-site for customer use and about a dozen Level 2 charging connections.

Most EV customers at BMW of El Cajon fall into the first type mentioned by Plante Moran’s Barrott: They have done much research and already know what they want to buy.

But his salespeople must nonetheless have in-depth EV ownership and operation knowledge or else know where to find it, says Daymude. That creates customer trust and boosts sales.

“If you validate what they already know, then you’ve sold the car,” he says.

About the Author(s)

Alysha Webb


Based in Los Angeles, Alysha Webb has written about myriad aspects of the automotive industry for more than than two decades, including automotive retail, manufacturing, suppliers, and electric vehicles. She began her automotive journalism career in China and wrote reports for Wards Intelligence on China's electric vehicle future and China's autonomous vehicle future. 

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