Tesla vehicle drivers are used to doing most of the car rental or buying process online. But according to new research from global business management consultants EY, not everyone is ready to give up on the car dealership experience. It’s a familiar car buying experience, especially for those who haven’t made the switch to electric cars yet. But dealers are going to have to adapt quickly to the changes brought about by the arrival of electric cars, or they will be left behind.
Road tests and physical touch
EY has found that over 50% of car owners and non-owners (there is a difference of opinion between these two groups) prefer to experience a car physically before buying it.
In addition, 57% of non-car owners and 61% of owners want to take a test drive, at home or in a convenient location.
Car dealers already offer systematic road tests. And besides, Tesla too. My Electrek her colleague Scooter Doll wrote about how to test a Tesla during the pandemic, and you can read it here.
But for the consumer who wants to buy an EV from a car dealership, the challenge is finding a salesperson who is familiar – and enthusiastic – about EVs. Auto dealer management will need to accept that the electric transition is real and happening now, and educate its staff on the sale and maintenance of electric vehicles. Electric cars are no longer an afterthought or a novelty.
And there is a new experience that seems to be coming with electric cars: acting like a kind of BEV ambassador with friends and family. Overall, people seem to have a genuine curiosity about electric cars, and educating those you know, or even letting them drive your car around the neighborhood, will often influence their decision to pull the trigger on electric vehicles.
For example, my brother-in-law booked a Ford F-150 Lightning shortly after renting our Tesla Model 3. And some friends jump at the chance to sit in the Model 3 and ask questions, or lead it if we offer to them. Word of mouth is powerful if trust is already established.
Funding and price transparency
When it comes to paying for a car, 66% of non-car owners and 73% of car owners who buy their first electric car prefer to get quotes and secure financing online.
In addition, 36% of non-car owners and 39% of car owners prefer to know in advance how much they can spend on a car.
Over 50% of non-car and auto owners also prefer a fixed final price without haggling, and 29% agree or strongly agree that it is better to complete paperwork online instead. than doing it at the dealership.
A fixed final price is the norm for Tesla, and while haggling is the accepted buying process at most car dealerships, not all dealerships embrace this model. For example, there is a Subaru dealership near me that only offers cars at a fixed price.
Some people enjoy the horse trade, while others find it stressful and even intimidating. But it’s clear the majority of buyers like to go to dealerships armed with the knowledge, quotes, and finance they first got online.
When it comes to paperwork, that low 29% surprised me, because sitting at a dealership for hours, signing and initialing what appear to be hundreds of pieces of paper is a real drag. Tesla’s online experience was so much easier. We’d love to hear from those of you who prefer to do dealer paperwork, and why, in the comments below.
EY’s conclusion on car dealerships
To state the obvious, the auto industry is undergoing a revolution, and auto dealers are going to have to adapt nimbly, or they will stumble. As EY says, “this calls for a fundamental rethink of the role of dealers and the relationship between dealers, [original equipment manufacturers], and customers.
Here’s what EY concluded about the car buying experience:
The results of the latest Mobility Consumer Index show that most car buyers aren’t ready to move the entire car buying process online, but they are on the way to a multi-channel future online. To adapt, dealers must become trusted advisers and co-pilots on the decision-making journey.
Using the “trusted advisers and co-drivers” benchmark, I asked car sales people what they think and know about electric cars. At Mini, a brand that will go all-electric by 2030, the seller has presented its unique Mini Cooper SE as being “out there” in the field. He wasn’t particularly interested in discussing the electric car, and he didn’t know much about it.
Toyota, of course, officially doesn’t have electric cars. No one had a clue either, which is funny since they’ve already broken new ground with the Prius. Toyota seems to have lost its pioneering spirit. Only one salesperson knew about electric cars, and this was due to his personal interest.
A Toyota executive told the Reuters Events Automotive Summit today that “it is not for us to predict which solution is best or to say that only this one will work” in reference to proposals to ban vehicles at gasoline and hybrids. But actually Toyota, it’s your job to predict which technology is going to be the best fit, seeing how you make cars and everything.
So none of these dealers felt like a “trusted advisor and co-pilot”.
BMW is heading, like Mini, which it owns, towards an electric future. How quickly can BMW dealers adapt? I called the BMW dealership near me, and there are currently only hybrids in the field (no used i3s). The seller I spoke to told me he had about 15 pre-orders for BEVs. He said they would receive a demo model each of the i4 and iX in late spring 2022. He told me he is currently driving a hybrid and is excited about the idea. to go all-electric when the cars arrived. He had the potential to be a “co-pilot” and he was working to become a “trusted advisor”.
What do you think about buying an electric car from a dealership? Let us know in the comments below.
Read more: I just bought my very first Tesla. Here is what happened
Photo: “Row of cars at a car dealership” by everycar_listed_photos is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
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