Dealers and their sales staff are central to growing sales in the fledgling market for plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs). Nearly all new PEVs (excluding Tesla) are sold through independently owned dealerships. Yet an increasing number of reports show that many dealers struggle with selling PEVs, citing low consumer awareness, limited vehicle availability and poor salesperson knowledge. PEV buyers also rate dealers substantially lower than buyers of conventional cars (Cahill, 2015). These reports suggest dealers could be doing more, with the help of manufacturers and other stakeholders, to spur PEV adoption.
To address this, Plug In America is spearheading a pilot consumer and dealer engagement program in the Boston and San Diego metro areas aimed at positioning PEV dealers for success. Participating dealers agree to meet higher standards of customer support and in return are provided PEV-intensive training and access to additional resources to help meet the unique needs of PEV customers. Examples include conducting PEV ride and drive events in communities and corporate campuses and matching dealer salespeople with expert PEV mentors who can help ensure customers are set up to make the most of their PEV ownership experience.
The program also has an online component, delivering an easy to use, information rich and brand-neutral experience to help customers navigate the PEV shopping and purchase process. The site helps customer decide if a PEV can work for them and which models best fit their individual or household needs. It can then connect the customer with qualified dealers, thereby giving customers a path to purchase a PEV through committed retailers who voluntarily agree to higher levels of customer support.
To measure success, the program collects information on PEV sales volume, the time it takes to close a sale and customer satisfaction with the dealer. The program’s main objective is to ensure customers who buy a PEV are optimally set up by retailers to realize the full promise of PEV ownership and to share their experience with their social network to accelerate market uptake. As a trusted nonprofit and national voice for the PEV customer, Plug In America is uniquely positioned to champion this movement nationally, with the program serving as a replicable model for other regions.
Watch Eric Cahill’s video detailing Plug In America’s dealer program: