The National Auto Dealers Association has selected Chargeway to help its dealer members get comfortable explaining charging, range and other aspects of EV ownership.
For more than a decade, franchised auto dealers have been more of an impediment than a help in selling electric cars. But that may be about to change. If all goes well, new-car shoppers may start to find dealerships are happy to help educate them about how EVs are used—and, in particular, how they’re charged, a major source of misunderstanding among not only shoppers but salespeople themselves.
The National Auto Dealers Association (NADA) has chosen Chargeway to help its member dealerships explain EV charging, showing how shoppers can travel in electric vehicles by using charging stations along their routes.
Soon, shoppers may be able to enter their travel patterns into dealer websites to discover how and where to charge EVs locally and on road trips. Dealer sites will lay out all relevant financial incentives from the federal and state governments, plus local electric utilities. The goal is to educate shoppers on how EVs can fit into their lives before they ever set foot in a dealership.
Chargeway first gained recognition in 2017 for its simple, intuitive, color-coded visual language for identifying and distinguishing EV charging stations. It quickly expanded into helping Oregon understand and sell EVs more effectively by placing large kiosks right in showrooms. Those let salespeople and shoppers together find charging sites locally and along routes a driver specified, showing how to route a trip among charging stations and how much (or little) time to spend there.
A pilot program in Oregon made it clear that many dealers need to get their salespeople up to speed on electric vehicles—but once they did, EV sales went up.
Early on, the Oregon Auto Dealers Association recognized how challenged its members were in selling EVs effectively, giving it an incentive to work with Chargeway to pilot the system at willing dealerships. Kiosks also included information on incentives from the state of Oregon for purchasing an EV, and from relevant local electric utilities on charging rates, incentives for installing a home charging station and other EV-related purchases.
A small test of several dealers provided conclusive proof: Effectively educating shoppers about EV charging and how the cars could do longer road trips let dealers with Chargeway kiosks sell more EVs than comparable dealers without them.
Charging methodology is one thing dealers need to be able to explain, but there are many other features, from finding charging stations to claiming tax incentives for EV purchases.
The final step was to integrate Chargeway’s mapping, routing, and education—already found in its phone app and the showroom kiosks—into dealers’ websites. This, according to the new partners, was what really sold NADA on Chargeway.
“We looked at a number of different training tools and consumer apps,” said Mike Stanton, CEO and president of NADA. The group “found Chargeway best answered the questions our dealers were asking about EV charging: how long it takes, how home charging works, what incentives are available, and even how temperature and speed affect an EV road trip.”
The turnaround is striking, as EV advocates have known for years that dealers haven’t wanted to sell EVs—though sometimes for very practical reasons. Hundreds of EV shoppers reported visiting dealers to find disinterested or uninformed salespeople, some of whom said things about EVs that weren’t true—and many of whom worked hard to steer them away from an EV into a gasoline vehicle.
A November 2019 report released by the Sierra Club, Rev Up Electric Vehicles: A Nationwide Study of the EV Shopping Experience, showed the extent of the problem.
Three-quarters of dealers didn’t sell EVs at all. In 28 percent of dealerships visited by “secret shoppers,” salespeople provided no information at all about how to charge an EV. Nor did they offer information on state and federal incentives for EV purchase in 31 percent of those dealers visited.
Perhaps worst of all, in one out of 10 dealers that did sell EVs, the test vehicle hadn’t been recharged to give it sufficient range to provide a test drive.
That won’t be an option for much longer. Every carmaker selling in the U.S. will offer at least one EV within the next few years. Larger makers from GM and Ford to Volkswagen and Hyundai-Kia have plans to offer full ranges of EVs while trimming their gasoline lineups before largely eliminating them by 2035 or after. That year, incidentally, is the same year California expects to end the sale of new gasoline-powered passenger cars and trucks.