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Ipsos RDA study finds traditional US dealerships often not prepared for EVs

A new study by market research company Ipsos RDA has found that the EV sales process at traditional brand dealers who sell EVs alongside other vehicles, has, in many instances, has not been differentiated from the traditional process and is, in effect, passive. The availability of inventory, as well as critical EV ownership information in-store (from the sales staff or marketing materials) and online, is concerning and leaves shoppers with unanswered questions.

This, by contrast, is not the case with Tesla sales staff, who, advantaged given their EV-only product line, exude a passion for electric vehicles and are equipped with the information needed to help consumers make informed decisions.

The inaugural Ipsos RDA Electric Vehicle (EV) Sales Experience and Best Practice Study examined the sales process across automotive brands currently offering battery electric vehicles. Ipsos RDA deployed mystery shoppers to dealerships in the top selling all-electric vehicle markets in the US to assess their preparedness for this growing consumer base.

The study also found that the sales process experience at traditional brand dealerships is largely inconsistent. Consumers shopping for a specific EV model may have distinctly different experiences from one dealership to another in the same brand family—one well informed, educational and supportive, the other completely lacking.

The lack of consistency in the EV shopping experience, even within the same brand, highlights the need for better product knowledge and support to effectively position electric vehicles with the US automotive consumer.

—Todd Markusic, VP, Research at Ipsos RDA

These core issues tend to result in dealers moving consumers toward other, non-EV, models they are more comfortable selling.

One key issue revealed in these findings was the belief held by some dealers that the consumer must be prepared to compromise on their EV shopping experience expectations. This included expecting limited or no inventory to physical evaluate or select from. Rather than search for, or order, the desired vehicle, many shoppers are pressed to accept what is available—including hybrids or even gasoline-engine alternatives.

Attempting to switch a shopper away from their EV interest is not only damaging the likelihood of a potential sale, but it can damage the trust a consumer has with the dealership.

—Mike VanNieuwkuyk, SVP, Ipsos RDA

Electric vehicles are not often seen on the showroom floor nor are marketing materials displayed or made available and many dealerships that sell these vehicles don’t have designated EV sales people to manage the various questions and concerns potential owners have.

This lack of support for the EV shopper lessens the likelihood that they will make the decision to go electric. It is surprising that consumers often were not offered an EV test drive, a key experience that showcases the uniqueness of its performance benefits. Most of the time the consumer had to request one.

—Todd Markusic

The inaugural Electric Vehicle (EV) Sales Experience and Best Practice Study is a syndicated partnered project between Ipsos RDA Automotive and the Ipsos Loyalty’s mystery shopping practice—the largest such practice in the world. The study was conducted in September and October of 2017.

This mystery shop project covered 11 Electric Vehicle brands across the 10 largest EV markets in the US. Ipsos shopped the EV sales process—up to, but not including, the actual finance process. Mystery shoppers documented the shopping experience of 141 EV selling dealerships by completing a scorecard that includes up to 50 sales process attributes. A selection of the mystery shops was also videotaped, providing rich details on the consumer’s perspective of the EV shopping experience.


Brent Jatko

I could have told you that. Anecdotal evidence indicates that many dealers of ICE vehicles have clueless sales people, yet are protected by state franchising laws.

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