By Mia Yamauchi
Electric vehicle sales have been breaking records month after month. EV sales this year are up 60% compared to just three years ago.
You’d think dealerships would be thrilled to see a fast-growing segment bringing in new customers. In reality, electric vehicle shopping is a bit of a mixed experience. Stories persist of lackluster –or even downright discouraging– electric car test drive experiences at major automotive dealerships.
Why? Perhaps some of it is that we consumers have pretty high expectations of dealerships offering electric cars. We want a combination of the Apple Genius Bar, EV lifestyle consultant, and green tax credit adviser. It’s different than old-school gas cars. We don’t expect the dealer to coach us about every gas station between here and the nearest ski resort.
Then there’s the test drive. It’s critical to finding the right car. Unfortunately, EV test drive experiences vary widely across dealerships. Management and training at different dealers can be wildly different even in the the same manufacturer’s network.
Fortunately, there are simple steps to take for a better EV test drive.
5 Steps to Set Yourself Up for a Great EV Test Drive
1. Find an EV Pro
Call the dealership and find out who their go-to EV salesperson is. If the dealer is the real deal you’re looking for, the person answering the phone will know who to connect you with. If the call doesn’t produce someone, try another dealership. Visiting a dealership with at least one staff member who “gets” EVs will make a world of difference to your test drive experience. And even the dealership(s) you call who don’t have an EV specialist will get the message: customers want EVs.
2. Schedule your test drive ahead of time
Salespeople are thrilled to set up appointments in advance, so this is easy. Make it clear you intend to test drive an electric vehicle. Confirm that your EV of choice is available because not all dealerships carry all EVs. Request that it’s fully charged for your appointment. A recent secret shopper report carried out by the Sierra Club found that dealerships had properly charged EVs on the lot 86% of the time…but 14% of the time they didn’t. A 5-minute phone call can keep you from ending up in that 14%.
3. Walk in with the right EV facts
Research basic information about the electric vehicles available from the manufacturer: battery-only range, time to charge, gas backup availability. Have the info ready-to-hand on your phone or even print the information as a helpful common starting point for you and your salesperson. Find out if scheduled maintenance is required for your EV of choice. Some consumers report being upsold on regular maintenance packages (including oil changes) on a pure electric vehicle that has no oil to change. Even plug-in hybrids with combined gas-electric drivetrains experience much less wear and tear so maintenance costs are minimal. Know your numbers ahead of time so that you know what maintenance package – if any – is a good deal.
4. Know your perks
Many states offer tax credits or other perks such as premier parking, low cost charging or carpool lane access for electric vehicles or plug-in hybrids. These will generally be the same no matter which EV you choose. Knowing the benefits before visiting any dealership will help you understand the true cost of the cars you’re testing out. Do the research yourself with data from PlugIn America. Or you can get a free local EV tax incentive review for your area from us here at Plugless.
5. Spread the Love
Once you’ve found your dealership with an EV savvy salesperson share a quick post on social media. Let them know that you’re looking forward to your test drive. Be sure to mention the dealership name. Your salesperson WILL see or hear about the post.
If you decide to buy the car, be sure to give your salesperson credit on the post-purchase survey. Customer experience surveys are extremely valued by dealerships. That’s why any dealership salesperson will ask, ask, and ask again that you please fill out their feedback survey. It has a huge impact on their status at work.
The more positive consumer attention dealerships get around EVs, the better the EV test drive experiences become for everyone.
And most importantly – have fun test driving a brand new shiny EV! Check out the stunning torque available in the Volt’s “Sport Mode.” Parallel park a LEAF in tiny spaces. Get a feel for the amazing engineering, fit, and finish in the BMWi3. Whatever you try, just enjoy geeking out on the experience of zooming around in a futuristic spaceship car.
Do you have a favorite EV dealership or more tips for EV test drives? Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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