High costs and range anxiety, the worry of a car battery running out of juice, are considered the biggest barriers to people embracing EVs. A new study finds that car dealers are also to blame.
The Nature Energy analysis shows that salespeople steer people away from EVs to get them behind the wheel of a traditional gasoline car. Because plug-in vehicle technology is still new, and people’s experience at a car dealership influences their decision, the dismissive attitude of dealers towards EVs poses a major obstacle to their sales and widespread adoption.
Researchers from Aarhus University in Denmark and the University of Sussex in UK visited 82 dealerships across 15 cities in five Nordic countries: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. They posed as customers genuinely interested in buying an electric car. They quantified their experience and recorded quotes from the salespeople.
Sales personnel actively discouraged the researchers from buying EVs. In over three-quarters of the visits, dealers didn’t mention that they sell electric cars. In two-thirds of their visits, salespeople directed the researchers towards traditional engine-powered cars. In many instances, employees were dismissive of EVs; gave incorrect information about things such as driving range, tax incentives, or charging experience; and depicted them as an inferior option.
All five countries where the tests were conducted are strong international leaders in climate and energy policy, and all have various incentives for EVs. Norway is the global leader in EVs, with plug-in vehicles making up one-quarter of all new vehicle sales. Sweden is an intermediate market, while markets in the other countries are less developed. Dealer performance was highest in Norway and lowest in Denmark.
Car dealer attitudes and market conditions in these countries mirror government and industry policy, the researchers say. Most countries still have incentives that strongly favor traditional combustion engine vehicles. They lack substantial and effective policies to boost EV sales. That combined with the newness of EVs and their higher cost creates a huge barrier for sales. “Salespeople tended to promote the vehicle that is easier to sell, which outside of Norway, was undoubtedly not an EV,” the researchers write.
Policy and business strategies that address barriers at the point of sale are needed if we are to accelerate EV adoption and meet the global goal of 100 million EVs on the road by 2030.
Source: Gerardo Zarazua de Rubens, Lance Noel, and Benjamin K. Sovacool. Dismissive and deceptive car dealerships create barriers to electric vehicle adoption at the point of sale. Nature Energy, 2018.