Executive View: Dealerships are the answer to boost EV sales

As OEMs begin battling for EV market share with the new Chinese brands, how can traditional manufacturers use their market position to best advantage? Fraser Brown , managing director of automotive consultancy MotorVise, explains.

Spending a fortune on marketing electric vehicles is wasted investment as dealerships are failing to appeal to the 80% of buyers that don’t consider themselves an EV customer.

Consider keyword search volumes for ICE vehicles compared with EVs. EV volumes are often just 10-20% of the volumes of ICEs. So, all OEM’s are essentially fighting for just 20% of the market, which will potentially spiral into a commercial bloodbath.

The answer is to adopt a more strategic approach that drives substitution from ICE to EV sales, having double the effect on the mix statistic.

MotorVise has conducted a great deal of research on methods of driving the EV mix and is working with retailers and OEMs to increase the EV market share. Our EV mix accelerator programme places the customer at the heart of the retail process and ensures their interests are paramount. When this happens, our retailers achieve an EV mix in excess of 20%.

The key is the dealership team. Those OEMs with strong dealer relationships have a huge advantage in the short and medium term when it comes to boosting the EV mix. The magic is in those local dealerships that have long-term customer relationships and whose salespeople can spend time talking to customers about the positives and negatives of EV’s.

So why are OEM’s throwing away this huge advantage and not ensuring all the elements required to maximise this are fully in place? Even worse, throwing this advantage away and going down the agency route where there is no dealer relationship represents OEM suicide.

So, what are the key steps to achieve strong retail EV mix without wasting fortunes on marketing?

Positive EV experiences for dealership staff

Ensure dealership staff have a good EV experience by ensuring anyone driving an EV has domestic overnight charging. This gives staff a positive experience of waking up every morning to a fully charged vehicle.

Without this their experience is often terrible, fighting for chargers at the dealership and coping with flat batteries at the end of the day, resulting in a visit to expensive public charging points just to get home.

Normal EV ownership with low cost overnight charging (with only 5% of charging done at public charging stations) is what dealership staff should experience. Dealers should help instal EV charge points at the homes of salespeople to ensure EVs are full each morning for staff and test drive customers. This creates advocates for EVs in dealerships rather than detractors!

Change the customer experience framework in the dealership

Change the sales process for all customers to include a discussion around vehicle usage, most miles covered in a day, up front vehicle costs balanced with fuel savings and access to home chargers.

Retrain every element of the sales process to ensure all customers without exception are considered for an EV. However, we also must accept some 40% of retail customers are not right for EVs – but 20% will buy today if helped and supported by a trusted advisor.

EV Sales process training

The sales process in dealerships must be fundamentally different to traditional methods. The entire sales team need retraining to include extensive conversations on fully understanding the customer, what they use their car for and access to smart meters, electricity tariffs, where the customer parks overnight, regular maximum daily mileage and many other factors. This is completely different to product training, and it has been neglected by most OEM training programmes.

Provide salesperson and dealer incentives for EVs

Ensure the reward for an EV sale is more than for an ICE sale. Do this through bonuses but also through gamification for salespeople. Ensure this is balanced as we don’t wish to misadvise customers, however we want to embed the behaviour that encourages conversations around EVs with every customer visiting the showroom.

Do not let dealers run peak sales events that do not drive EV mix

Running standard sales events and driving sales whilst neglecting EV sales mix has a hugely negative effect on overall EV percentages.

This is because in peak order take time during events, dealerships need to be more focused than ever on EV which requires all the tools at hand and the training fresh in the minds of sales people to drive EV mix during this period.

Failure to focus heavily on EV during sales events decreases EV mix and disproportionately drives down EV mix for the quarter!

Ensure home charging for customers can be included in the package

Asking customers to find £1,000 for a home charger is often a major barrier and it is essential that a home charger is included in the PCP or overall monthly package for customers.

In dealer coaching

Ensure the new sales process is embedded and measured with the right KPI’s. Ensure the KPI measurements are in place, ensure shortfalls are addressed with coaching for management and salespeople to drive the new behaviour.

Mystery shop the process/customer experience

Use Video Mystery shops to ensure what we think is happening in our showrooms is happening in our showrooms.

MotorVise has tried and tested many different initiatives, processes and ideas to drive EV retail sales mix and has achieved measurable results in pilot programmes – taking dealers from mid-table nationally on EV mix to top 2 nationally as a result of different elements of our programme.

Combine all the tried and tested elements of the Motorvise EV mix accelerator programme and exceeding 20% retail EV mix is possible this year for brands with a good EV range

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