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Gonzalo del Hoyo
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Auto dealers have to keep up with the issues facing the electric vehicle. In November 2018, All Media Consulting and Electromaps carried out the 1st National Survey of Electric Vehicle Drivers. The results reveal a series of data that, in my opinion, should consider all of us who are involved in accelerating the shift towards more sustainable mobility.

Last February, I had the privilege of attending “VE Data Day”, where the results of this survey were presented. It was really interesting to analyze a series of data that I will discuss in this article next. Although the study covers the entire Spanish territory, I will interpret the results that relate to the dealerships in Catalonia, since it is the territory in which I am based.

Encuesta Nacional de Conductores de Coche Eléctrico

Assessing the purchasing experience of Catalan electric vehicle drivers, there is a factor that constrains from the very first moment. This comes from the manner of acquisition, that is, if the vehicle is new, second-hand, or leased/rented. Catalan drivers, according to the study sample, widely prefer the direct purchase option of a new vehicle (55% of them), compared to 28% who bought it second-hand and 12% who leased/rented. We can see how more than half of the users acquired the new vehicle.

We must first analyze the sources of information that were relevant to making the final decision to purchase an EV. Here we see notable differences between drivers. While the Internet is valued with a 3.9 out of 5 regarding the importance at the time of the purchase decision, the dealers have only received a 2.3 out of 5. This is an evaluation below the score needed to ‘pass’.

When drivers also individually rate each element of the buying process, “dealer advice” was rated the worst. From best to worst, drivers rated “information on the Internet” with a 3.84, followed by “vehicle delivery time” with a 3.1, “purchase procedures” with a 2.97, “customer service” with a 2.94, and finally, “dealer advice” with a 2.46 out of 5. Second-hand buyers were particularly critical, with a rating of 1.86 out of 5 given to dealers, compared to buyers of a new car who rated dealers at a 2.76.

Something similar happens in the customer service rating: second-hand buyers gave it a minimal pass with a 2.61, while first-hand buyers showed more satisfaction with a 3.13. However, we see that the tables are turned when the delivery time is valued: 3.42 for second-hand buyers compared to 3.08 for those who bought a new car. Thus, if we talk about the electric vehicle purchase process, we can conclude that the customer trusts the information obtained on the Internet more than the information provided by the dealers. And I wonder: are we getting out of date? Do commercial advisers know how to provide all the information that the electric vehicle customer needs to address their doubts?

Regarding the experiences or problems encountered in the visits to the dealerships, the Catalan drivers received, despite everything and according to their criteria, adequate attention.

The impression is that the majority perceived good intentions or good manners in their conversations with the sellers. However, many also saw their choice conditioned by the explanations of the sales staff, surely affecting their decision in choosing a new or second-hand car. Likewise, if we go down to the details, we see that sellers often resort to the argument or warning of the lack of autonomy of the EV (40% of the sample affirms this). Also, 20% of those surveyed mentioned that the dealer they visited wanted to sell them a diesel vehicle: is this a bad detection of needs?

From all this, we can see that in the case of second-hand EV owners, only 32.3% claimed to have received adequate care. The rest always mentioned a problem. On the other hand, owners of a new car report greater satisfaction with the care received, but there are still 42% who mention some of the comments about the limitations of the EV by the sellers.

Finally, consumers were asked about the delivery time of the electric vehicle once it had been purchased. Again, we can see the differences between the experience of purchasing a new or used vehicle here. The strongest percentage is that 83.6% of second-hand drivers received the car within 1 month, something that is logical when one considers the fact  that few dealers make risky bets by investing in maintaining a stock of electric vehicles ready for immediate delivery.

However, 50% receive their car after 2 to 6 months if it is new (47.7% claim to have waited 4 months, and 13.4% claim to have waited for up to 6 months). Furthermore, 7.4% had to wait even longer.

At Carhaus we are committed to the sale of the electric car, and that is why we have stock immediately available for sale with the Volkswagen e-Golf and e-Up models. We also offer the possibility of attending efficient driving talks with the opportunity to try an e-Golf. This is how we try to allow drivers to have a real experience with an electric car, in case they have not had the chance  before.

From all this data, I draw a clear conclusion: today, the client trusts what is published on the Internet more than what the certified consultant of the concession tells them, and this is something that really worries me.

In the past, a client visited the dealership an average of 8 times to buy a vehicle, today that average has dropped to 2; so, for the good of the automotive industry, we better do our job well.

We have fewer and fewer opportunities to contact the customer directly in person. The Internet is indispensable for practically everything today, but it will never replace a good business advisor. The only way to carry out a good detection of needs is by listening to the client, and that is something that the network is not capable of doing at the moment.

It is clear that changes are coming with the electric car, with consumers  increasingly choosing to be a user and not a vehicle owner. This is just a sample of what will come with the shared and connected car from Volkswagen and the rest of the brands.

As a Volkswagen Carhaus Sustainable Mobility Advisor, I encourage you to respectfully express your opinion and tell me: should dealers have to get their hands on the electric vehicle issue?

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