Consumers Prefer Going to Car Dealer

Car shoppers—including millennials—prefer the traditional dealer-centric car shopping experience to direct retail by nearly a three-to-one margin. Further, nearly one-third of shoppers expect to lean on a car dealer as a primary source of information as they evaluate electric vehicles (EVs).

Those are the latest findings of a new Dealer DeepDive report from EVForward, the largest, most comprehensive study of the next generation of electric vehicle buyers. The dedicated platform was developed in 2020 by Escalent, a top human behavior and analytics advisory firm with extensive experience counseling the world’s largest automotive companies.

The study’s respondents have sent a clear message regarding traditional and emerging car shopping models:

  • 57% prefer the traditional approach to car buying, while just 20% prefer Tesla’s direct retail model.
  • 94% of respondents younger than 35 are satisfied with dealerships—the highest of any group. Among all groups, 87% indicate satisfaction with dealerships.
  • Further, a majority prefer that many of the phases of the car-buying process take place in-person rather than virtually:
    • Purchase – 75%
    • Arranging for financing – 60%
    • Taking delivery of the vehicle (at dealership as opposed to at home) – 85%
    • Repairs and service (as opposed to tech coming to home) – 79%

“Car shoppers are sending a clear message to automakers—they like the traditional dealer model and prefer to handle much of the shopping process in-person,” said Mike Dovorany, Automotive & Mobility vice president at Escalent and head of EVForward. “Further, EV Intenders—respondents identified by EVForward as the next generation of EV buyers—show a keen interest in making the car dealer experience a core part of their information-gathering, shopping and decision-making processes.”

When asked which sources they are most likely to use when learning about electric vehicles, 63% of EV Intenders indicate test driving an EV is important—the most of any source of information available. Additionally, 31% of all respondents indicate a dealership salesperson would be among their primary sources of information. Automakers must seize this key opportunity in what is growing to be a competitive race for shoppers’ attention and consideration.

EVForward offers a unique look at the next generation of EV buyers, with more than 600 variables encompassing proprietary survey information and additional profiling data. The tool provides rich, actionable analyses based on an unrivaled quantity and quality of inputs to inform the steps industry players need to take today to inspire broader adoption of EVs and ensure their success with future buyers.