If there is a key change between these first efforts of 2016 and today, it is that electricity is no longer the exclusive domain of the first users; they now appeal to a wider audience of buyers. As that customer base grows, Plug In America, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit that promotes the shift to plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles, has sought to educate dealers and train their staff on how to be more effective with potential customers. Since 2016, its PlugStar program, also a purchasing tool for consumers, has trained hundreds of dealers and thousands of salespeople.
“Auto dealerships are where the rubber meets the road,” said Joel Levin, executive director of Plug In America. “This is where the sale is made, and it’s a central part of that equation. It’s a different sale. A different business transaction than the one dealers are used to. There have been a few speed bumps going on. of road. “
Basically, customer questions about gasoline cars are vehicle centric. Questions about electric vehicles, on the other hand, are about the ecosystem needed to support cars: where can customers charge? How long does the charge take? How much does it cost to install home charging equipment and then charge the battery? How quickly does the battery degrade?
The more salespeople can have these answers at their fingertips and provide real-time information to utility companies, the better off they can be in electric vehicle sales.
“Once the dealers understand the technology and can answer these questions, they’re like, ‘Hey, that’s an easy sale because the cars are easy to refuel and there are incentives available to buy them,’ said Kat Urquhart, who manages the PlugStar. program. “A lot of times they find out that EV champions are created and they say, ‘Give me the inventory, and we can sell these cars. “
She says salespeople trained in the PlugStar program sell four times as many electric vehicles as their untrained counterparts in the same dealerships. Dealers who invest in training have seen their sales of plug-in hybrids increase by 10% and sales of electric batteries increase by 20%, Urquhart said. Surveys show that PlugStar certified resellers are twice as likely to achieve a coveted five-star rating from customers than those who are not trained.
Even for the most enthusiastic dealers, however, some hurdles remain. When negotiating group buying, Johnson says the incentives available are often dictated to dealers by automakers, so the room for pricing may be limited. Sometimes inventory can also be limited, making it difficult to get a decent number of vehicles.
Nonetheless, it is certain that forging relationships and educating dealers and their staff is the key to enabling widespread adoption of electric vehicles.
“Customers themselves are better informed now, and they have friends who have Tesla’s, and they’ve watched videos, and they’re biding their time,” Johnson said. “When we have a group buy they say, ‘Oh, I can get this amazing deal in October, and I’m ready to pull the trigger. “There still needs to be a little helping hand to get them to that final ‘yes’.”