Skip to main content

Even in zero emissions mandate states car dealers make buying electric cars hard

sierra club ev survey dealers dont help best electric cars feat
Image used with permission by copyright holder
Why do car dealers make it so tough to buy electric cars, even in states with zero emission mandates? There may be several answers to that question. Rev Up EVs, a multi-state Sierra Club survey shows “a tremendous room for improvement among both the dealerships and the automakers to provide customers with a better EV shopping experience.” The Sierra Club conducted the survey in part because of a disconnect between apparent consumer demand for electric vehicles and automakers’ claims that customers don’t want them.

The Sierra Club survey was restricted to the ten U.S. states with existing zero-emissions mandates — the California Air Resources Board (CARB) Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) program has been adopted by nine other states. The ZEV program is up for review because some California legislators want to speed the conversion to zero emissions cars.

Under the current, 2012 version, the mandate requires that 15 percent of new vehicle sales are ZEVs by 2025. The states that have adopted the ZEV mandate are California, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

This spring 174 Sierra Club volunteers made visits to 308 different dealerships representing 13 brands that sell zero-emission vehicles in the ten states that adopted the ZEV mandate. After each visit, the volunteer reported the experience via an online survey. The Sierra Club doesn’t claim the survey is statistically significant, but only that it shows trends in current consumer zero emissions car shopping experiences.

Mary Lunetta, the Sierra Club’s Electric Vehicles Initiative Campaign representative and co-author of the report, summarized the study. “Ranging from not carrying electric vehicles on the lot, to insufficiently charging them for test drives, to not featuring them prominently, to not informing customers of charging capabilities or tax incentives, it’s clear auto dealerships and automakers need to be doing much better to promote and sell electric vehicles,” said Lunetta.

Not all dealerships had EVs on the lot. Among those dealers with one or more electric vehicles on the premises, 14 percent of the time the mystery shoppers were told the car wasn’t sufficiently charged for a test drive, including 22 percent of the Chevy dealerships and 21 percent of the Ford dealers.

When talking with salespeople about the EVs, again at dealers where there was at least one vehicle on the lot, only 50 percent of the salespeople told them how to refuel the EV when traveling. Only about 33 percent of sales staff mentioned federal and state tax credits and rebates.

The Sierra Club’s overall conclusion from the survey is that many automakers and dealerships aren’t trying hard enough to sell EVs. Gina Coplon-Newfield, the Sierra Club’s Electric Vehicles Initiative director and co-author of the report said, “While some of our Rev Up EVs survey participants found dealerships are employing impressive best practices to sell a lot of EVs, many encountered roadblock after roadblock in their search for EV inventory, test drives, and knowledgeable salespeople.”

Among the 13 brands whose dealers were surveyed, Tesla, BMW, and Chevy had the most positive experience ratings, in that order. Porsche, Hyundai, and Volvo had the least positive experience reports.

If you are interested in the full results, you can find the Rev Up EVs survey report here.

Editors' Recommendations

Bruce Brown
Digital Trends Contributing Editor Bruce Brown is a member of the Smart Homes and Commerce teams. Bruce uses smart devices…
Electric-car drivers may be able to choose their vehicle’s alert sound
A red 2019 Chevrolet Bolt EV.

Similar to a rule that launched recently in Europe, automakers selling electric and hybrid models in the U.S. now have to equip 50% of their vehicles with a mechanism that makes a sound at slow speeds. Full compliance is expected by September 2020.

The safety measure is to ensure that these so-called “quiet cars” can be heard by nearby pedestrians, cyclists, and the visually impaired.

Read more
Colorado will adopt California’s zero-emission vehicle mandate to boost EV sales
colorado will adopt californias zero emission vehicle mandate audi e tron prototypes pikes peak

Colorado will adopt California's zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) mandate, which requires automakers to sell battery-electric cars, plug-in hybrids, or hydrogen fuel-cell cars as a certain proportion of their overall sales, or purchase credits from other automakers to offset lower ZEV sales. Forcing automakers to sell ZEVs has helped spur sales in California, and could have the same effect in Colorado.

Colorado announced plans to implement the ZEV mandate in January 2019, initially receiving some pushback from an automaker trade group. But now the state and the auto industry have reached a deal. The Association of Global Automakers and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers -- two trade groups that represent 99% of U.S. car sales -- said they had reached an agreement with Colorado on the issue.

Read more
Can electric motors finally make three-wheeled cars great?
Three-Wheel EV

Every few years, someone tries to sell a three-wheeled vehicle to Americans. It hasn’t gone well ever since Karl Benz patented the first three-wheeled car in 1885. Yes, the same guy who later co-founded Mercedes-Benz. In the 130 years since, automakers have tried different designs and moved the motors around, yet very few customers ever buy one.

We’ve got our suspicions about why people don’t buy trikes, and they boil down to this: They're just not real cars.

Read more