The latest in the “let’s make a story about how EVs suck where there is none” trend is this morning’s news that certain Chevrolet dealers are choosing not to take more Volt inventory. Sensationalistic media outlets are framing this as a nationwide lack of demand, because of course, Clovis, CA (near Fresno) is representative of the entire country. In fairness, dealers in New York City are also lackluster. But much as automakers push that market area for regulatory reasons – New York is a CARB state – NYC has always been problematic as an EV market area due to lack of private vehicle ownership and parking.
Just as there’s no one car for everyone, plug-in vehicles won’t sell well everywhere in the near term. There are also certain realities of dealer processes that make plug-ins more time-consuming to sell even in the most attractive of places. More people come to check out the cool new car than actually buy them, compared to conventional vehicles. And those who buy might have to order them, perhaps install charging infrastructure, etc., which means that rarely are they driving away in a shiny new EV the same day. Service departments are often reluctant too; the standard technician pay structure and lack of upselling potential isn’t conducive to new technology. Automakers need to be aware of and address these issues, while dealers must be more realistic about the learning curve. But inevitably, those dealers who decide it’s not worth the trouble will drop out.
This won’t be unique to Chevrolet; we have and will continue to see the same with other plug-in programs. But it’s also a good thing, potentially exceeded only by those automakers who realize from the start that not all dealers should be selling plug-ins. It’s simple; those who are not truly invested provide a poor customer experience and hurt sales, which damages public perception of plug-in vehicles. Dealers dropping out is often a self-fulfilling prophesy, but given how virally these customers share their experiences both good and bad, better to have it happen sooner than later. Then again, I’ve also seen customers travel hundreds of miles to a dealer whose salespeople or technicians are genuinely interested and provide a good experience. Loyalty among EV buyers and drivers is stunningly high, but as with most other things it must be earned- and this is hardly news.