The Ipsos RDA Automotive and Mystery Shop Team launched its Inaugural Electric Vehicle (EV) Sales Experience and Best Practice Study. This project evaluated the EV sales process at more than ten electric vehicle brands across the ten largest EV markets in the US. Ipsos RDA 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.
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 U.S. 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.
Tesla sales staff, 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. This is not the case for traditional brand dealers who sell EV’s alongside other vehicles. The EV sales process, in many instances, has not been differentiated from the traditional and, in effect, is 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.
Furthermore, 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 U.S. automotive consumer” said 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 gas-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” added VanNieuwkuyk.
EVs Do Not Take Center Stage
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” said Markusic. “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”.