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Electric car dealerships take their chances with Internet

Gonzalo del Hoyo
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Do we dealerships have to get our act together on the issue of the Electric Vehicle? In November 2018, All Media Consulting and Electromaps conducted the 1st National Electric Vehicle Drivers Survey. The results of this reveal a series of data that, in my opinion, should make all of us who are involved in accelerating the change towards more sustainable mobility reflect.

Last February, I had the privilege of attending “VE Data Day”, where the results of this survey were presented. It was really interesting to analyse a series of data that I will present later in this article. Although the study covers the whole of Spain, I will base myself on interpreting the results that have to do with dealers in Catalonia, as this is the territory in which I am located.

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Valuing the purchase experience of the drivers of the Catalan electric vehicle, there is a factor that conditions from the first moment. This resides in the type of acquisition, that is, whether the vehicle is new or second-hand, or leasing/renting. In this sense, Catalan drivers, according to the study sample, widely prefer the option of direct purchase of a new vehicle (55% of them), compared to 28% who acquired it second hand and 12% who did so in leasing/renting mode. We can see how more than half of the users acquired the new vehicle.

First we analyzed the sources of information that were relevant to make the final decision to purchase an EV. Here we see noticeable differences in drivers. And it is that while Internet is valued with a 3.9 out of 5 in the importance at the time of fixing the purchase decision, the dealer has received a 2.3 out of 5. It is a rating below ‘approved’.

When, in addition, drivers value each element of the purchase process individually, the dealer’s advice was the worst evaluated. From best to worst, drivers rated “Information on the Internet” with 3.84, followed by “vehicle delivery time” with 3.1, “purchase formalities” with 2.97, “customer service” with 2.94 and finally “dealer advice” with 2.46 out of 5. Especially second-hand buyers were critical, with 1.86 out of 5 with respect to the role of the dealer, compared to buyers of a new car who rated it with a 2.76.

Something similar happens in the rating of customer service: second-hand buyers approved it minimally with a 2.61, while first-hand buyers showed more satisfaction with a 3.13. However, we see that the tables turn when the delivery time is valued: 3.42 for second-hand buyers versus 3.08 for those who bought a new car. Thus, if we talk about the process of purchasing the electric vehicle, we can conclude that the customer relies more on information obtained on the Internet than on information provided by dealers. And I ask myself: Are we being outdated? Do we commercial advisors know how to provide all the information that the electric vehicle customer needs to clear their doubts?

With regard to the experiences or problems experienced during visits to dealerships, Catalan drivers received, despite everything and according to their criteria, adequate attention.

The impression is that the majority perceived good intentions or good manners in the conversations with the salespeople. However, many also saw their choice conditioned by the explanations of the sales staff, surely affecting the fact of choosing a new car or a second-hand one. Likewise, if we go down to the detail, we see that salespeople often resort to the argument or warning of the lack of autonomy of the EV (40% of the sample say so). Also 20% mentioned that they wanted to sell them a diesel vehicle: Bad detection of needs?

From all this, we see that in the case of the owners of a second-hand EV, only 32.3% claimed to receive adequate attention. The rest always mentioned a problem. On the other hand, the owners of a new car are more satisfied with the attention received, but there is still 42% who mention some of the comments about the limitations of the EV by the sellers.

Finally, the question was asked about the delivery time of the electric vehicle once it has been purchased. Once again we see how the fact that the vehicle is first or second hand affects here. The most convincing percentage is that 83.6% of second-hand drivers received the car within 1 month, which is logical considering that there are few dealers who make risky bets investing in having stock of electric vehicles for immediate delivery.

However, 50% receive their car after 2 to 6 months if it is new (47.7% say they have waited 4 months and 13.4% until 6 months). In addition, 7.4% had to wait even longer.

In Carhaus we bet on the electric car and for that reason we have stock of sale with immediate availability of the models Volkswagen e-Golf and e-Up. We also offer the possibility to attend efficient driving talks with the opportunity to try an e-Golf. In this way we try to give the drivers a real experience with an electric car, in case they have not done it before.

From all these data I draw a clear conclusion: today the customer relies more on what is published on the Internet, than on what he can inform the certified advisor of the concession, and really is something that worries me.

Formerly a customer visited an average of 8 times the dealership to buy a vehicle, today that average has dropped to 2 so, for the sake of the automotive industry, we better do our job well.

We have fewer and fewer opportunities to contact the customer directly in person. The Internet today is indispensable for just about everything, but it will never replace a good business advisor. The only way to make a good detection of needs is to listen to the customer and that is something that at the moment the network is not able to do.

It is clear that changes are coming with the electric car, people are increasingly opting to be users and not owners of vehicles and this is just a sample of what will come with the car sharing and connected to Volkswagen and other brands.

As a sustainable mobility advisor to Volkswagen Carhaus, I encourage you to respectfully express your opinion and tell me: Do we have to put the batteries in the dealerships with the issue of the Electric Vehicle?

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