EV owners and prospective buyers expect automakers to offer both an online and in-person shopping experience.

EV owners and prospective buyers expect automakers to offer both an online and in-person shopping experience, according to the 2022 EVForward Dealer DeepDive.

The EVForward team, part of advisory firm Escalent, works to capture the attitudes, behaviors and opinions of the next generation of EV buyers.

The 2022 Dealer DeepDive report surveyed 1,289 people, of which 88 are EV owners. The survey grouped participants into EV intenders, or those who are most likely to shop for an EV, as well as EV opens, who are somewhat likely to purchase an EV, and EV resistants, drivers who are more comfortable with internal combustion engine vehicles.

The results? Prospective buyers want to use both online and in-person resources to buy an EV. The report suggests both legacy and EV specialist automakers offer an omnichannel buying experience, said K.C. Boyce, Escalent’s vice president of powertrain innovation and energy transformation.

The dealership will remain a pivotal part of an EV intender’s shopping experience, according to the report. The survey finds 74 percent of respondents would prefer to buy an EV at a dealership, rather than from an auto manufacturer or third party. Participants who own an EV, EV intenders and younger buyers are more likely to prefer purchasing directly from an automaker. However, a majority of each group still prefers buying from a dealership.

Started last year, the EVForward’s Dealer DeepDive was developed to understand shopper reactions to the online retail models developed by EV automakers such as Tesla, Boyce said.

“So we de-badged or de-branded some of the experiences that these EV specialist automakers are using and we said, you know, what’s your reaction to this? Is this something that would be a net positive or a net negative?” Boyce said. “‘And a lot of the things that the EV specialist manufacturers are doing really are net negatives to customers.”

Some shopping features common to EV specialist brands have low acceptance, the report shows. Those surveyed say the following are unacceptable:

  • Third-party call centers for service inquiries (71 percent).
  • Showrooms at select locations (55 percent).
  • Vehicles purchased online (52 percent).
  • Ordering a vehicle and waiting for delivery (48 percent).

Shoppers have learned to expect certain services from dealerships, the report said.

In terms of must-have online features, Boyce said automakers should provide general information about the EV online and options to arrange for financing or schedule a test drive to streamline the dealership process.

Key in-person features are having the vehicle on site to drive and experience, price negotiation, finalizing the contract and vehicle handoff.

“Those are things that customers really want to be able to do in person and have someone across the table from them,” Boyce said.

When it comes to maintenance, in-person options are also best, Boyce said.

“People are much more comfortable taking their vehicle to a dealer than they are, for instance, having a mobile service unit coming out and doing it in their driveway or garage,” Boyce said.

The survey finds 44 percent of shoppers think it’s unacceptable for showrooms to have limited vehicles on display. Boyce said about 21 percent of customers are likely to shop for an EV when they shop for a new vehicle. Once supply chain issues subside, Boyce said automakers will be able to not only meet demand, but bolster their in-person experience.