Recently, Ameera, Gabriela, and I visited some auto dealers in the greater-Baltimore area to discuss their Electric Vehicle inventory. Our goal was to find out how many EVs are being sold at area dealerships, and see what the dealers do for an EV sale. We spoke with the salesmen on a wide range of topics from specific vehicle allotment to any additional services that are offered, and even about the training some of these salesmen have received.
Our first stop was a Toyota dealership, where we met Mike, the Online Specialist, about the Plug-In Prius. He was very knowledgeable about the vehicle and highlighted many of benefits of owning an EV. His dealership has offered the PHEV for about a year, and Mike estimated that about 40 have been sold, a quarter being his sales. They have between six and ten on the lot at a time. He also added that his main role at the dealership is with their online store, which accounts for almost half of their PHEV sales.
Next, we travelled to the luxury dealers, Mercedes Benz and BMW. At Mercedes, Mike the Service Advisor, gave us all of the information on the B-Class ED. He had recently returned from a two-day course on the B-Class, and although that location won’t have it until 2015, he knew the facts. After highlighting the features of the B-Class, we learned that Mercedes helps with the instillation of at-home EVSE and with the applied tax incentives.
BMW was quite similar, with salesmen taking a course on the i-series, and their aid in EVSE installation. Our salesman Dave informed us that two i3’s have already been sold, and that they will plan to have three in stock. BMW also makes sure their car is as green as possible with its production taking place in a wind- and water-powered factory, to the option of having solar panels installed to your home as an option to charge the i3.
Finally, we stopped by a Chevrolet dealer to hear what they have to offer. Our salesman Charlie was very friendly but unfortunately not very knowledgeable. He mentioned taking a brief class on the Volt at one point, but he was unable to tell the difference between the engine generator and electric drive unit. And when we asked how owning an EV would affect our energy or electricity rates, he was lost. Almost as lost as a customer could be after buying a Volt, because the dealership does not offer any assistance with the government incentives, or EVSE installation. And despite the fact that he couldn’t provide an estimation of Volt sales over any time-frame, he was able to tell us that sales dropped after the car’s initial release. They do keep between two and five on the lot, and Charlie added that as the price drops, he expected to see more people buying the Volt again.
After our last stop, we noticed that many of our questions had similar responses from dealer to dealer. Carmakers do not incentivize the sale of EVs to the dealers, and salesmen don’t receive any incentives for selling them. We found that this leads to salespeople not wanting to push the more expensive EV and to just sell the conventional car. A more positive trend we noticed was the education of the salesmen. And with the exception of the Chevrolet dealer, the classes seemed to work. And in regard to the buyers, the majority of the EV’s sold are to very informed customers. Most salesmen said that convincing the average car buyer to pick an EV is very difficult, but some saw success when offering it as an option to hybrid car buyers. Our consensus is that with more encouragement from the carmakers, dealers and salespeople could help put more EV’s on the road. And that informing consumers is the next step to seeing more people talking with dealers about making the switch.
Picture source – maps.google.com