A few weeks ago, Bloomberg covered the challenges facing car dealers as the EV transition accelerates. The biggest problem? Dealers don’t know how to sell them to interested buyers. This may sound like an excuse, as we know dealers have been dragging their feet on EVs in the past, but dealers are starting to get past the denial phase, and realize that they don’t know what they’re doing.
Efforts like Plug In America’s PlugStar program aim to educate dealers and their salespeople on the methods, but getting dedicated EV sales and support training isn’t cheap and takes up time that salespeople would rather spend selling cars and making commissions. So, I’ve decided to write up a guide for auto dealers to get a basic idea of what EV buyers need to know.
Whether you’re a dealer, a salesperson, or just a curious EV customer, this guide is for you.
“TL;DR” – Or, An Introduction
Before I get into the details, I want to give a quick overview of the things a salesperson or buyer needs to know about EVs. It really comes down to these things:
- Pros and cons of EVs, overcoming obsolete objections
- Total cost of ownership, available incentives
- Basic driving differences (if any)
- Real world EV range
- Home charging
- Charging away from home
- Maintaining the vehicle
This guide assumes that a salesperson or buyer is already familiar with things like sales techniques, giving product demonstrations, and educating customers on things like infotainment, car features, etc.. Dealers are already doing all of that stuff, so they don’t need my help on those.
It’s also worth noting that these general EV knowledge topics are useful for independent and used car dealers. As new cars find their way into the auction lots and get traded in, dealers of all types will need to know how to educate buyers to make for an easy experience.
The Pros Of EVs
If you’re going to sell an EV of any kind, you need to know what the real pros and cons are to the vehicles compared to gas- and diesel-powered ones. This will enable you to not only sell the upsides, but make sure you’ve set realistic expectations for the customer.
The biggest upside to EV ownership is the costs.
First off, ask customers what the highest gas prices they’ve ever personally seen are. Chance are, this will remind them of something like 2008-2009, and they’ll remember how awful it was to spend twice or three times as much as they were used to for a tank of gas. Reminisce with them for a second and then tell them that electricity doesn’t have wild price swings. Over the years, the cost of electricity has gone up some, but it’s never gone through a crazy budget-wrecking swing like we’ve seen with gas.
If you have a computer or tablet handy, you can show them this graph from the US Department of Energy showing the relative price of gas vs electricity over the years. The pink line shows the cost of EV charging, while the blue and purple lines are gas and diesel. It’s not only cheaper, but predictable and steady.
Another cost benefit to EVs is that they don’t need nearly as much maintenance. Once again, ask them about the worst automotive repair bill they’ve ever had, to contrast this with an EV. They still need some maintenance, but there are no oil changes, valve jobs, timing belts, tune-ups, or any other engine maintenance to worry about. Also, EVs don’t need brake jobs nearly as often as other cars because they use the electric motor to slow down and recharge the battery.
The next few pros are best displayed on a test drive. The quiet operation, instant torque, and regenerative braking are a pleasurable experience for most drivers. Let this one be an experience, but be sure to point these things out.
Another big plus is that you’ll never have to go to the gas station. If you’re charging at home, you can wake up every morning with a “full tank,” just like your smart phone. For nearly all of your driving, the charging happens when you’re busy doing something else, like sleeping or working.
Finally, safety is a big advantage for most EVs. The low battery pack means your risk of rolling over is far lower. There’s no bulky engine, so car designers are able to make the car much safer. You’ll want to get specific figures and such for your brand’s particular car, but these are good basic safety points to make about EVs.
Let’s get into the cons of EV ownership for a minute. Sure, if they don’t like the car after the sale, it’s not your problem anymore, but I’m assuming that you want them to refer their friends and family to you. I’m also assuming you’d want them to come back so you can earn a commission again next time they want to buy a car. Setting realistic expectations is key to doing this if you’re an honest and service-oriented salesperson.
The biggest con to EVs is that they take more time to charge. For home charging, that’s not a big deal, as this happens while you’re watching TV or sleeping. But on road trips, you can’t refill the battery in 5 minutes. The amount of time needed charging varies, but on a long road trip, it could add anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours to the trip.
Another issue is towing. If your customer is going to be pulling a load with an EV pickup truck, they need to know that it’s going to lose around half of its range for a smaller trailer and maybe 3/4 of its range pulling a large trailer. If you’re selling a vehicle that’s available with a bigger battery pack, this is an upselling opportunity, but either way, the customer needs to know this going in.
Finally, charging stations are still very limited in parts of the country. You’ll need to let people know where the charging stations are (this will be discussed later), so they can know where the car can go and where it can’t go.
In Part 2, I’m going to cover some of the obsolete objections customers are likely to present, and how to address those fears, and then continue down the list I went through in the introduction.
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