5 Things the Auto Industry Should Invest in with Electric Vehicles

Early adopters of Electric Vehicles (EVs) and others exploring EV options report being largely underwhelmed by the knowledge, confidence, and support provided by auto dealerships to date. In today’s environment, it’s not uncommon for customers to be better informed about EVs than the sales advisors!

Added to this, under pressure to make a sale, dealer sales staff often stumble through their pitch with questionable accuracy about EVs or, worse, steer prospects back towards their area of comfort and expertise—vehicles with internal combustion engines (ICE). According to Pied Piper’s “Prospect Satisfaction Index,” Tesla, followed by BMW, Nissan, and Volvo, offer EV brand experiences that others can learn from.[1]

As customers’ appetites for EVs grow and prices fall, affluent customers will be joined by more mainstream customers, upping the ante for dealerships not only to become conversant, but confident and knowledgeable, on all things “EV.”

So, what will it take for dealerships to evolve from EV-evaders to EV-ambassadors? Here are a few things the industry might consider investing some time and effort in:

  • OEM Support: “You first!” Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) say it to their dealers, and dealers say it to their OEMs. OEMs need to evaluate their incentive plan structures to encourage and incentivize dealerships to sell EVs. Whether OEMs offer monetary- or inventory-based incentives, dealerships require strong motivation to make the necessary EV investments in staff education, training, digital marketing, technological infrastructure, facility, and inventory. OEMs who demonstrate a commitment to preparing for an EV future will inspire and motivate their dealerships and dealership staff to join.

 

  • Education: According to Pied Piper, two-thirds of EV customers are first-time EV buyers;[2] thus, at least a basic knowledge of EVs is expected of dealership sales staff. In addition to specific product training, dealership staff require training on EV technologies and capabilities. Start small and get a couple of people trained to answer the basic questions and ensure coverage with this expertise across all shifts. At a minimum, EV-conversant staff should be able to speak confidently about the product (range, battery capacity, and overall value proposition), the use of the product and charging, and the costs. Resources, such as one-page ‘cheat sheets’, FAQs, in-depth manuals, and easy-to-reference guides, will help equip sales staff with the information needed to address customer questions.

 

  • Sales Interactions: Dealerships need to reconsider their approach to EV customers and what is important to them. As you would with ICE customers, zero in on the customer’s key criteria. Share information on the benefits of EV ownership that will resonate with each customer–environmental awareness/consciousness, commuting fit, and savings (charge versus gas prices, less maintenance, federal and local incentives/rebates, etc.). This may sound basic; however, according to the findings of a study conducted by The Sierra Club, 39% of all salespeople with whom volunteers spoke did not discuss EV charging and 33% of the time, salespeople did not discuss the federal and state credits and rebates available.[3] Arm yourself with the knowledge to speak confidently and accurately to give prospective customers the information they need to make an informed decision.

 

  • F&I and Service Capabilities: Sales education may be the beginning, but it falls flat if your dealership is not ready for the F&I conversation or lacks the necessary infrastructure to service and repair EVs. F&I and service staff will require additional training and coaching to effectively discuss the intricacies of EV option packages and warranties. In addition, dealers need to assess where they are today in terms of education, training, and infrastructure investments required to service EVs. Recruiting or training talent to support the servicing of EVs requires careful planning. EVs bring with them complexities and skillset requirements that dwarf those of the already specialized service environment that modern ICE vehicles require.

 

  • Future Investment: OEM and dealership investments will signal a commitment to an EV future for both staff and customers. Consider infusing prime real estate on the dealership’s website with EV education, the dealership’s motivation to support EV, and overall EV benefits. Then, bring this commitment to life in the dealership. Think about how to prominently display EVs in your showroom (perhaps even display one on-charge). Integrating EV displays and test drives into your community events and articulating the environmental benefits and tying this back to your dealership’s values and community involvement could be differentiators, too. Incorporating EVs into your vehicle loaner program to increase customer exposure to the product is also a great way to showcase your offerings. Offer extended test drives of EVs to customers. Implement a program to encourage your sales and service staff to take EVs home for extended test drives to increase their familiarity.

This is not something that will happen overnight. Define your vision and desired timeline. Begin taking the steps today to equip your dealership for an EV future. Knowledge and support will drive confidence, early wins, and success.

At Strativity, we’re engaged with many OEMs and dealer networks to help them maximize their opportunities (now and those to come). We believe the future is bright for dealerships; however, those who will be most successful are already strategizing and making real progress today.

We’re here to help. Please visit us at www.strativity.com or contact Tim Douek, Auto and Transportation Practice Lead, at tim@strativity.com or +1.646.244.4430.

[1] “Plugging EVs just wasn’t enough,” Automotive News, March 11, 2019, https://www.autonews.com/retail/plugging-evs-just-wasnt-enough (accessed 5/16/2019)

[2] “Plugging EVs just wasn’t enough,” Automotive News, March 11, 2019, https://www.autonews.com/retail/plugging-evs-just-wasnt-enough (accessed 5/16/2019)

[3] Chanell Turner, “Becoming an Electric Vehicle Leader: Will Your Dealership be Ready to Handle EV Sales by 2025?” CBT Automotive Network, March 21, 2018, https://www.cbtnews.com/becoming-electric-vehicle-leader-will-dealership-ready-handle-ev-sales-2025/ (accessed 5/16/2019)

Ali
ali@strativity.com