We are entering the age of the electric car, and it sounds like dealers are coming along for the ride, too, even if they are coming along kicking and screaming.
A big obstacle, dealers have been saying for a while now, is that their salespeople simply aren’t equipped to sell EVs, because after years and years of selling ICE cars, old habits die hard. Or something. It’s never been explained to me why dealers have such a hard time selling EVs, given that Tesla, a company that doesn’t even have traditional dealers, has no trouble selling EVs.
A new Bloomberg story is roughly the millionth story I’ve read on the matter that again attempts to explain why dealers have such a hard time selling EVs. The story concludes, in part, that salespeople simply haven’t had the training to sell EVs, and includes anecdotes like the following:
“It’s very different than selling a gas car,” echoes Jason Savino, the digital operations director for All American Auto Group, a Ford, Mazda, and Subaru dealership in Old Bridge, N.J. Savino noticed while sitting in on a routine training session at his dealership that his sales people needed help to prep for the new $43,000 Ford Mach E. “An EV customer is going to focus on the battery size, how much kilowatts they contain,” Savino explains. “If a customer is buying [a Ford] Explorer, they’re not going to ask the range of the gas tank, how many miles until you’re empty, but for EVs the range is one of the most important things.”
Dealers desperately needed additional training to help them understand the very simplest things, such as how to identify what kind of charger a car needs and how to plug in, Savino says. They needed to understand how to monitor battery life during inclement conditions and how to navigate the technology inside the EV.
“Customers want to know things like, ‘How much is my electricity bill going to go up if I charge this thing at home?’” Savino says. “That is not something the manufacture like Ford is that good itself at [equipping dealers for] answering.”
Bloomberg also spoke to a guy who gives classes, presumably paid ones, to dealers to educate them about EVs. That guy explains that it is very complex.
[Tom Moloughney, an editor at InsideEVs] says that more than 90% of the dealers he visits are not aware of all of the incentives available for a given EV. It is a complex quagmire to navigate. Trade-in values for and against EVs vary, and layers of federal, state, and regional incentives—in addition to standard tax breaks—must be learned and explained.
Listen, this is going to sound a little harsh, but it needs to be said that anyone curious about EVs — customers or salespeople — can take about 15 minutes Googling the matter and learn all there is to know about EVs. To save everyone some time, here is an FAQ:
What is an EV?
It is a car powered by electricity with a range that depends on what its battery capacity is. You can charge it at home or, increasingly, many other places. Many of them are very, very fast, if you are into that kind of thing, because of instant torque. To operate an EV, you turn the car on and hit the acceleration pedal and steer. To brake, you hit the brake pedal, though most of them also have regenerative braking, which slows the car and captures energy. Driven carefully in such a car, often you don’t have to use the traditional brakes at all.
Why would I buy an EV instead of a gas car?
Well, if you believe that ethical consumption makes a difference, there is that. A more practical reason: EVs don’t require a lot of maintenance. In fact, if you’re lucky, the only maintenance you’ll be doing is tire and brake replacements and windshield wiper fluid refills. Also, of course, a big potential savings because you’re not paying for gas anymore, though some of that might be offset by paying for more electricity. But more on that in a second.
Are there government incentives to buy EVs?
Yes. In the U.S., federal government offers a $7,500 tax credit if you buy an EV from anyone except GM or Tesla, since both of those companies have sold more than 200,000 EVs. You can see the entire list of EV tax credits here. The state you live in might also offer an additional tax credit, you can find out if it does using Google.
Will my electric bill go up if I charge at home?
Very likely, unless you stop using electricity somewhere else at home. But then again you never have to go to a gas station ever again.
That will vary depending on how often you use it, but Kelley Blue Book says around $25/month as an average.
Can I charge it in the rain?
I have range anxiety.
The vast majority of trips everyone takes are short; think about the last time you drove for over 100 miles, let alone more than that. If you regularly drive more than 200-300 miles at a time — a rough average of EV ranges, though they vary — then you are correct, an EV is not for you.
I’ve also heard that America’s charging network is ass!
It sure is, friend, unless you live in California. The good news is that you can install a charger in your garage, for $2,000-$3,000, which you’ll want to do anyway given that, for example, Ford says it takes 95 hours to charge the Mustang Mach-E using a standard 120-volt wall outlet. With Ford’s charger that number is 10 hours, or overnight. The numbers for other EVs aren’t dissimilar.
What about different charging standards?
There are three different fast-charging standards in use. There is the one the Japanese automakers use, there is the American/European automakers use, and there is Tesla’s. However, there is also a fourth standard, which all electric cars in the U.S. (even Teslas, with an adapter) use, which charges at a slower rate, but still enough to charge your car overnight. I know this sounds complicated, but in practice it is less so. Try not to stress about it.
All right, but what about those Chevy Bolt fires I’ve heard about. Can EVs catch fire?
It is true that they can, but fires are rare and you know what else can catch fire? An internal combustion engine car.
I also heard EVs are pretty expensive, even with incentives.
That is true as well, but the average new car price is now over $45,000 so I’m not even sure how to define “expensive” when it comes to cars anymore.
I live in a big city on the East Coast with very little charging infrastructure. I don’t have a garage, and I park on the street. EVs just don’t seem practical in my situation!
You’re right. They’re not. In your situation, I would recommend a small hybrid car, you know, probably a Prius. Not that I would know anything about your situation.
I was kidding. I live in the suburbs and have a garage and am ready to make the leap. Which one should I get?
Whichever one you prefer! There is actually a good amount of choice now, or at least more than there was this time a year ago. Personally, I would probably fuck with the Polestar 2 if I were in the market for an EV, which I am not because I live in a big city on the East Coast with garbage charging infrastructure.
In fact, I am so sold on EVs that I can’t wait to replace my truck with an F-150 Lightning.
That’s exciting news, though I fear that trucks may not be the best use-case for EVs, if you regularly tow things, at least.
That’s too bad.
It is, and it is one problem that I don’t see a clear solution to just yet. That said, if you’re one of those people that has a truck and doesn’t tow very much and basically uses your truck like one might use a sedan, which is a lot of you, an EV truck like the Lightning will be perfectly fine.
What is Tesla, again? It seems to be an electric car company?
If you’ve come this far in life without developing an opinion about Tesla, you have my respect. Tesla is, indeed, an automaker. But buying a Tesla is an extremely serious decision, given that it marks you as a certain kind of person. That certain kind of person is: suspect. I have met plenty of normal Tesla owners and I have met plenty of abnormal ones. You sound pretty normal! So feel free to browse Tesla’s wares, if you like. Just know that, if you buy a Tesla, you might occasionally be mistaken for a very different kind of person.
Who is Elon Musk?