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Many look at the rapid shift to electric cars and wonder if we, as a society, are ready for them. There are many aspects of the gas to electric transition we haven’t fully grasped. And one of these factors is car dealerships themselves. Having sold gas power cars for years, selling an electric car seems to be trickier, especially if the salespeople don’t fully understand the selling points.

New Toyota cars parked at a dealership in August 2021 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
New Toyota cars on a dealership lot | Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Car dealerships aren’t enthusiastic about electric cars yet

The truth is that gas cars will be the better selling vehicles, at least they will be for a while. Tesla only recently managed to outsell every vehicle in Europe last month, but that’s Europe. In the US, where electric cars only make up 2% of the cars on the road, we have some catching up to do in terms of electric car sales.

Electrek even visited a few dealerships, asking the salesmen about the different electric cars on the lot. However, each representative fell into one of two categories. Either they didn’t know anything about electric vehicles and didn’t really want to talk about them, or they only knew about electric cars because they were interested in them personally. No outside training has been provided in order to sell these cars, just whatever the salespeople know off the top of their heads.

This is a problem, considering electric cars are fundamentally different than gas cars. Many look at the price of electric cars and wonder what the benefits are. Less range? Longer charge times? Those are more drawbacks than anything.

Failing to convince the public that electric cars aren’t just better for the planet, but also better for your wallet, means dealerships can’t sell as many. Though, the truth is, electric cars aren’t being sold from dealerships much anyways.

Many are turning to online, made-to-order electric cars

Front view of red 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning electric pickup truck
Ford F-150 Lightning | Ford

The days of walking into a dealership and haggling may be coming to a close. In fact, the only reason why some folks would want to go to a dealership and see a car, whether it’s electric or not, is to test drive it. But many can have that same experience by simply asking a friend if they can drive their EV. I’ve driven a Tesla Model 3 courtesy of a family member. And that beats going into a dealership and signing paperwork before I could get a feel for the car by a longshot.

Tesla offers a fixed price on their website, which is reflected by their dealerships. And many are ordering new electric cars, like the Ford Mach-E and F-150 Lightning off the internet, able to spec and price them to their liking. While these made-to-order vehicles are more reservations, they’ll be delivered to customers exactly as they specced them.

There are many ways the car buying process will change. But if I were given the power to dictate how car dealerships operated from now on, I have my own strategy that would make the car buying process both enjoyable and simple.

The direction I think car dealerships should take

The John Andrew Ford dealership in Auckland, New Zealand
The John Andrew Ford dealership | Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

Have you ever been to a petting zoo? You get to feel and experience all the animals without actually taking one home? That’s what I feel car dealerships should transition to. You have a couple of models of every car on the lot ready for test drives, and the salespeople are tasked with convincing people to go back home and buy the car online. Or, you could spec it out with the dealership on their website, and maybe even use a little kiosk.

Is it a practical business model to take? Probably not. But it is honest and transparent, allowing for all potential customers to just come in and try the vehicles without the pressure of having to buy one, which could increase electric car sales. I’d test drive more cars myself if I didn’t always feel obligated into making a purchase. That’s what car dealerships have devolved to, and it’s not exactly a pleasant experience.

Electric cars sales are creating a dealership revolution, as they try to find their place amidst this transition. Whether traditional dealerships and haggling mentalities will begin to fade away isn’t clear yet. But one thing is certain: everything is going to change.


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