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Electric Vehicle Friendly Auto Dealers Show Other Dealers the Path to EV Success

Electric Vehicle Friendly Auto Dealers Show Other Dealers the Path to EV Success

Written by: Steve Birkett – EV Guide and Content Consultant

From almost every perspective, auto dealers have a bad reputation selling electric vehicles. For early adopters, all-electric startups like Tesla and Rivian offer a much more streamlined, hassle-free way to buy an EV, with their direct-to-consumer, fixed-price sales models allowing buyers to avoid traditional dealerships.

For more mainstream buyers who prefer to have a local contact point for sales and service, the knowledge level of those dealerships selling EVs is hit or miss. 

Finding a salesperson who understands both the model you want and the wider EV ecosystem is like bottling lightning. More often than not, the buyer gets burned. In a 2023 study by Perficient, around three-quarters of EV owners surveyed expected dealers to be knowledgeable on topics related to all-electric models. Unfortunately, only 10% of respondents reported an experience with dealers who could answer their EV-specific questions.

Traditional dealerships continue to make that reputation even worse for themselves as thousands sign on to send protest letters to President Biden, urging his administration to slow the momentum towards electrification and dilution of rules intended to curb noxious tailpipe emissions, which threaten the health of communities.

These examples make it relatively easy for the most vocal EV supporters to dismiss the role of dealerships and lay the blame for any loss of EV sales momentum firmly at their door. However, not all auto dealers need help with their EV sales processes.

The dealers that we’ll explore in this article prove that they have an important role to play in the gradual transition to electric vehicles. By learning what EV buyers want and offering valuable resources such as education or charging options, these dealers educate new customers, attract the next generation of EV buyers, and lay a blueprint for other dealers to follow on the road to a better EV sales experience.

Bucking a Trend, These Dealers Embrace and Improve the EV Charging Experience

Dealership DC fast charging has been in the shade of public charge point operators for years. Higher power and more stalls always beat out the typical dealer charging experience of limited amenities and inaccessible chargers.But some dealerships are moving to change this. They see the momentum of electric vehicles and offer charging facilities designed to excite the EV drivers that might buy from them next time they’re in the market.

Received wisdom among experienced EV drivers is that dealership charging is usually plan B, or possibly much further down the alphabet in some areas. Look at some of the forward-thinking stations below, however, and you’ll find not all dealerships are content to accept the status quo.

Friendly Chevrolet – Dallas, TX

Friendly Chevrolet in Dallas, TX is one such example. While their peers send letters trying to slam the brakes on EV adoption, Friendly’s EVHQ charging hub is designed to accelerate the transition and uplift the brand. This hub attracts headlines, appreciative EV drivers, and EV-curious customers.

Some of the site’s highlights include eight 120kW dispensers, on-site EVHQ attendants, covered charging stalls, complimentary Wi-Fi, and even a dog-friendly off-leash area for EV drivers traveling with pets. As President of Friendly Chevrolet Mark Eddins said: “I wanted to create something extraordinary and different that you couldn’t find anywhere else. That’s our EVHQ Charging Park.”

At a time when dealership charging is characterized by underpowered hardware, inaccessible charging stalls, and limited amenities, Friendly Chevrolet’s EV-friendly facility shows others the way forward. As one visitor summed up on Plugshare: “This dealer has really gone all in for EVs!”

Eddins says that many early EV customers at Friendly Chevrolet are under 35 and the outgoing Chevy Bolt line has been popular. This being Texas, the most eagerly anticipated model is the upcoming Chevy Silverado EV, although it’s the Blazer EV that’s up next for the dealership’s electric vehicle team to start selling.

Marcotte Ford – Holyoke, MA

Ford is at the center of the EV demand debate, adjusting down production levels of its pioneering F150 Lightning model in the same month as it set records as the best-selling electric truck. There are undeniably Blue Oval dealerships not committed to the brand’s electrification goals, but Marcotte Ford in Massachusetts is not one of them.

As well as installing some of the most powerful charging hardware on the market, ChargePoint’s Express Plus system, Marcotte created an EV Café to take care of visitors while they charge. As the first dealer in the state to meet the charging criteria of Ford’s Model E Certified Elite Program, owner Mike Marcotte understands the value of moving early. “This Elite Program enhances our ability to transform our showroom and facilities to electric,” explains Marcotte, which in turn means his dealership attracts future EV customers, as well as “meeting the growing needs of both our sales and service guests.”

Many users reference the café and clean facilities as a major plus for their charging experience. This is the kind of check-in that results: “Wow! Really nice, even have a cafe inside. Charger worked great.”When EV drivers are recommending your dealership for charging over the nearby alternatives that are supposed to be 100% focused on fast charging, you know you’re doing something right!

Marcotte sells both the Ford Mustang Mach-E crossover and the F150 Lightning, which is a compelling model for the more rural areas of western Massachusetts. Educational institutions are another source of EV sales for the dealer, with colleges and universities increasingly electrifying their fleets. Top of the all-electric wishlist for Marcotte in 2024 is the Platinum Black edition of the Lightning, which will be limited to 2,000 units. Marcotte says he hopes to see at least one cross his lot before the year is out.

Lake Chevrolet-GMC – Devil’s Lake, ND

While futuristic chargers and entertaining amenities are a significant boon to the EV charging experience, sometimes just being in the right place with reliable hardware is enough. That’s certainly the case for Lake Chevrolet-GMC in North Dakota, where fast charging is currently more of an oasis than an expectation.

As the only public DC charging option for almost 100 miles in any direction, reliability is top of the list of priorities at this location. Power up to 150kW is another bonus, especially if you’re in the middle of a long trip across the state.

Of course, facilities are limited, but dining options within walking distance and not-so-common accommodations such as pull-through parking for EV drivers towing a trailer all add to the experience here. Pleasant staff add the finishing touch, with several visitors noting a positive experience with the Lake Chevy team. As one satisfied Mustang Mach-E owner wrote on Plugshare: “Wonderful folks at this dealership and always a reliable charge. Thanks!” In remote areas, simply providing a pleasant fast charging experience gives your dealership a name (and might even put it on the map for a future EV purchase).

Lake Chevrolet-GMC understands this, even in an area that isn’t yet a hive of EV interest. Dave Brustad, sales specialist at the dealership, regularly shares updates on the latest EVs on the lot. The newest Chevy Blazer EV and Bolt EV models attract attention, but it is the GMC Hummer EV that really gets most visitors excited. “The all-electric models offer instantaneous power, and it is awesome, to say the least,” says Brustad.

The dealership also combines its electric vehicle initiatives with another quality of traditional auto dealers, a commitment to the local community. A recent event organized by Lake donated money for every completed EV test drive to a nearby high school wrestling team.

Eco Auto – Tewkesbury, MA

As one of the few electrified-only dealerships in the region, it makes perfect sense that Eco Auto in Massachusetts offers fast charging as well as pre-owned electric vehicles for sale. While the other examples in this article emphasize power, Eco Auto needed only 60kW-capable hardware to achieve its twin goals of education and community charging.

While the dealership’s location isn’t far from an Interstate exit, nearby Electrify America and Tesla Superchargers serve the EV traveler. Eco Auto’s fast chargers better serve local EV drivers in need of a top-up, such as those who don’t have home charging. If these owners are in the market for an EV upgrade, all the better. The dealership has a wide range of pre-owned electric vehicles to browse while charging, as well as pristine facilities with restrooms, refreshments, and video games for younger visitors.

The chargers also serve an educational purpose, according to Irving Rodriguez, Eco Auto’s VP of EV Charging. As well as group sessions at events like Eco Auto’s Summer Expo, having fast chargers on-site allows the dealer to show customers what they need to know about charging before they hit the road. “If you’d like a one-on-one demonstration, come on down,” says Rodriguez, adding “we’d love to show you more about car charging.” Charging is also an extra perk for anyone doing business with the dealership. A complimentary charge comes with every sale or service visit you make.

Paul Masse Chevrolet – East Providence, RI

Clean energy generation and electric vehicles are a common pairing for EV drivers at home, so why not emphasize the advantage of combining the two on a commercial level as well? Some dealers mention this as an aside, but Paul Masse Chevrolet in Rhode Island wanted something more noteworthy. Enter the “Green Zone”.

This is a prominent installation in front of the dealership and one of the first things that car buyers see as they approach the showroom. What started as a synchronized way to generate solar electricity for Chevy Volts on the dealer’s lot more than a decade ago has gradually turned into a micro charging hub for the business, which sells everything from the affordable Chevrolet Bolt EV all the way up to the six-figure GMC Hummer EV.

Level 2 charging is covered by solar canopies, while two 60 kW DC chargers serve four stalls next to the showroom’s main entrance. It creates an excellent backdrop for photos of the franchise’s electric vehicles, as well to showcase EV charging for customers new to all-electric models.

“It comes down to what the consumer wants,” according to Bob Masse, General Manager at the dealership. His team finds that while customers want more options in electric vehicles, including larger SUVs, those who test drive an EV usually end up buying. Having multiple charging options provides another way to attract EV buyers. Visitors seem to agree that the fast chargers are a valuable addition to the dealership. “I didn’t think it was possible for my 2020 Bolt to charge this fast!” said a recent visitor.

These Dealers are Leading the Way for EV

At a point in time when any sign of EV weakness is seized upon and exploited to support the idea that electric vehicles won’t work for mainstream buyers, it’s encouraging to see dealers like these providing solutions rather than wallowing in the challenges of electrification.

Dealerships that support EV adoption, such as the locations detailed in our article, are those that tomorrow’s car buyers will be drawn towards.

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