WardsAuto Podcast: Automakers Are All In on BEVs, But Dealers Aren’t

By the middle of the next decade, two-thirds of new-vehicle sales will be battery-electric-vehicles if current government mandates stay in place, but dealers are not willingly going along with that plan.

Wards Staff

October 16, 2023

The U.S. is largely divided regarding attitudes about transitioning to battery-electric vehicles. Auto dealers are no different. Automakers are asking their retailers to make major investments in their dealerships to facilitate the sales and service of BEVs, but many are opting to cash out rather than stay in the business. Others are staying in, but grumbling a lot about the changes.

In a recent Cox Automotive survey, 53% of consumers said they feel BEVs are the future and will eventually replace vehicles powered by internal-combustion engines, but dealers were much less enthusiastic.

Of 152 dealers surveyed, only 31% echoed that sentiment, with nearly half (45%) saying BEVs still need to prove themselves in the marketplace.

While consumer adoption of BEVs is expected to soar as more models hit the market, dealerships are not prepared regarding sales and service capabilities, raising concerns about the overall customer experience and satisfaction, the Cox report says.

This dealer sentiment is not limited to the U.S. In the U.K., for example, the National Franchised Dealer Assn. (NFDA) in September asked dealers questions about their relationship with their manufacturing supplier. It revealed that sentiment around BEVs is being weighed down by the high levels of investment required to make the transition to electrification.

According to a survey earlier this year by the Sierra Club, U.S. dealers reported that supply-chain, inventory issues and automaker allocation of BEVs to dealerships created BEV availability barriers. Of the 66% of car dealerships that did not have a BEV for sale, dealers were evenly split on whether they would or would not offer a BEV for sale if they could get one. 

In this week’s WardsAuto Podcast, host David Kiley talks with WardsAuto Principal Retail Analyst Nancy Dunham, as well as consultant Eric Linder, senior director of dealer relations at the consultancy automotiveMastermind, about the state of dealer attitudes toward BEVs and some of the issues dealers have with automakers.

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