Yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting with Alan Ford, the Master Technician at Noosa Hyundai, Mazda and Great Wall (GWM) dealerships. Of course, the first question I asked was: “What’s a guy named Ford doing working in a Hyundai, Mazda and Great Wall dealership?” Alan is helping the dealership and its staff get ready for the rEVolution.
After a short stint in the army, Alan trained in engineering and construction and then completed an apprenticeship in motor mechanics with Daddows, Cooroy. Then he worked at Noosa Honda and Suzuki. The dealership expanded into Hyundai, Subaru, and Lada down the track. He has spent most of his time with Hyundai and is now the company’s master technician. Hyundai starts you as a registered technician, then after more training and experience, you become an expert technician, and finally a master technician. It is a qualification roughly equivalent to a Certificate 4. Alan knows his stuff.
We got a bit nostalgic when he told me he still has a timing light, a dwell meter, and a set of feeler gauges in his tool kit. He still has to use them on some older model cars. How things have changed, even just in the world of internal combustion engines. Now he has to deal with Bluetooth, a wireless interface, and OTA updates. He is still on the tools, plus he supervises other technicians, mechanics, and apprentices. Warranty work is a big part of the service offered, and he is frequently called on to give advice to customers — especially on the electric models.
Eighteen months ago, Noosa Hyundai became a Blue Drive Dealer, able to sell the Kona and Ioniq EVs. Alan had to visit Brisbane for a 2-day course and also receives regular in-person and online training. In turn, Alan trains the 25 staff as appropriate. His dealership has just taken on Great Wall Motor and he has not yet received any hands-on training on the ORA. Even though they are already selling the ORA, it is not yet listed on the website.
This dealership is positive about selling electric vehicles and has attended the Noosa EV Expo with its cars — the Ioniq 5 & 6 — and of course, this year, with the Great Wall Motor ORA. Alan was at the expo answering questions from the public — the salespeople are still on a steep learning curve.
Alan tells me that the ORA has already had a software update, which has improved the driving experience and increased the regen braking.
The dealership’s sales staff are taking it in turns to take an EV home for the weekend. “They are charging them themselves!” They are comfortable with the “granny charger” but are taking some time to get used to high-speed public charging. I can understand that. They are used to having a fuel card at the servo, not downloading an app and working out the technicalities. But, if they are going to sell the cars, they need to know what to tell the customers. All of the nine salespeople have driven the electric cars and taken customers for test drives.
The Kona EV, with its 150 kW motor, was a big hit. “Shredded the tyres on takeoff!” Maybe we shouldn’t tell the boss that!
The ORA also got great reviews from the staff, with words like “nippy,” “fun,” and “quick.” It’s sort of a retro-futuristic fusion cross between a mini and a Volkswagen. “Love the turquoise interior.” Pretty good for a first EV iteration — no comparison with the Honda Z or the Hyundai Excel. Alan has had customers think “cheap Chinese rubbish,” then they look at the fit and finish of the interior and the technology included with the car and are amazed. GWM has come a long way from the utes it exported to Australia 12 years ago. “Low tech Mitsubishi clones with poor paint work, no manual or after sales service.” In my opinion, Chinese carmakers have made 50 years of progress in the last 4 years.
Two ORAs have been delivered (a long range green one and a standard range blue one) and 3 more are on order. One ORA has already come back in for its first free service, at 1000 km. Alan describes this as “a piece of mind checkup.” Regular servicing includes a 60 point safety check and is capped at $160 — that’s value for money when you are dealing with very new tech.
In a recent email update, Alan tells me that “the demo ORA standard range in green has sold and more are coming. The New Kona EV/Hybrid will be available soon.”
The Ioniq 5 has to have software updates in workshop. The Ioniq 6 receives them over the air. Every 60,000 km, the coolant has to be flushed.
The dealership has installed two-3 phase JetCharge chargers, 32 amp at 22kW. That’s enough to give 50 km range per hour. Just like their petrol counterparts, each EV leaves with a full tank. Within the next 12 months, the dealership expects to install a DC fast charger for customer use. Good idea — it will build good customer relationships.
The salesmen have asked, “when do I charge?” His advice: off peak where possible, and use your solar if you have it. Charge when you get the opportunity. He tells me that he has gotten most of his knowledge about EVs from actually driving one. Two years ago, the dealership had one Ioniq (this is not the 5) and one Kona. He fell in love with Ioniq and bought it.
Of course, I asked him if he had considered the Tesla. Apparently, he had. A couple of owners had sold their Teslas to the dealership and then gone on to Tesla and bought Model Ys. Apparently, Noosa Hyundai gave them a better price. So, Alan had had plenty of opportunity to inspect and drive the Model 3. Alan prefers to use a HUD, physical knobs and buttons, and does not like Tesla’s minimalistic dash. He also finds the glass roof problematic in Queensland’s heat.
In the past 2 years, the dealership has sold about 25 electric vehicles (Ioniq, Ioniq 5, Kona, and now ORA). To put that in context, the dealership sells about 150 vehicles a month. It has sold out of its stock of Kona EVs and now has an 8-month waiting list.
One vehicle they cannot sell is the Mazda MX 30 demo that is sitting in the yard. It is now two years old and no one is interested. It has a range of only 180 km (on a good day). It is getting some use as a dealership runabout. “My Ioniq has twice the range and cost $15,000 less.” Don’t even begin to compare it with the ORA!
I and many of readers have had negative experiences when approaching dealerships about the purchase on an electric vehicle. It is great to talk to a dealership that is proactively preparing for the rEVolution.
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