The results? Potential buyers want to use both online and in-person resources to purchase an electric vehicle. The report suggests that traditional and EV-focused automakers are offering an omnichannel shopping experience, said KC Boyce, vice president of powertrain innovation and energy transformation at Escalent.

According to the report, the dealership will remain central to an EV user’s shopping experience. The survey reveals that 74% of respondents would prefer to buy an electric vehicle from a dealership rather than from a car manufacturer or a third party. Participants who own an EV, EV buyers and younger buyers are more likely to prefer buying directly from a car manufacturer. However, a majority of each group still prefer to buy from a dealership.

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

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

Some shopping features common to brands specializing in electric vehicles have low acceptance, according to the report. Respondents say the following is unacceptable:

  • Third-party call centers for service requests (71%).
  • Showrooms in some locations (55%).
  • Vehicles purchased online (52%).
  • Ordering a vehicle and waiting for delivery (48%).

Buyers have learned to expect certain services from dealerships, according to the report.

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

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

“These are things that customers really want to be able to do in person and have someone in front of 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 dealership than, say, having a mobile service unit come out and do it in their driveway or garage,” Boyce said.

The survey reveals that 44% of buyers think it is unacceptable for showrooms to have a limited number of vehicles on display. Boyce said about 21% of customers are likely to purchase an electric vehicle when purchasing a new vehicle. Once supply chain issues subside, Boyce said automakers will be able to not only meet demand, but also build their in-person experience.


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