Pub. 20 2021-22 Issue 2


NADA Director’s Message: Dealers Are Essential to Broader EV Adoption

NJ CAR has long made the case that New Jersey’s neighborhood new car and truck dealerships are much better equipped to lead the electric vehicle (EV) revolution currently underway. Sure, Tesla made EVs sexy, but they offer four models in a handful of colors. Franchised dealers currently offer more than 40 battery and plug-in hybrid models in every shape and size and at virtually every price point. At the rate new announcements are making the headlines, that number could increase to 140 models in just a few years.

NADA is now taking up the EV mantle, with a blog post recently authored by Mike Stanton, NADA President and CEO, entitled “Dealers Are Essential to Broader EV Adoption.” Below is a shortened version of the story, but I encourage everyone to read the complete story at

Dealers Are Essential To Broader Electric Vehicle Adoption

Earlier this year, when Ford unveiled the F-150 Lightning, it ushered in a new – and long overdue – era of battery-electric vehicles built not to fill niches within the American car market but for the bulk of it.

This unveiling was a watershed moment in automotive history. That’s because the F-150 Lightning is far more than just a truck. And it’s more than just an electric truck. It’s the vanguard of a wave of vehicles that can finally bridge the gap between the battery-electric vehicles we have now and the BEVs that can truly make an impact on our climate over the long-term by appealing to the vast majority of American car and truck buyers.

Franchised dealers have been waiting for this moment for years. Dealers are “all in” on EVs and incredibly excited about the new electrified products being announced almost daily. And dealers are hungry for the sales and service opportunities that are going to come with having numerous new EV models to sell.
And while today’s EVs are exceptional, the reality is that many of them appeal to supporters of reducing greenhouse gas emissions or luxury vehicle buyers who want cutting-edge technology and performance.

One of the great mistakes we make in assessing our progress on converting America’s fleet to electric is assuming that today’s EV buyers will look like the EV buyers of tomorrow. This simply isn’t true.

It is undisputed that Tesla has been extremely successful at selling its products. But does Tesla’s success prove that you can sell EVs in great quantities in America? Does it reveal the path to the mass adoption of EVs? The short answer is a resounding “NO!”

Tesla has proven you can successfully sell Teslas to a certain small subset of the car-buying public. To date, American EV buyers are vastly different from ICE-vehicle buyers. In particular, EV buyers are typically much wealthier, much better informed about EVs and are acquiring their third, fourth or fifth car.

Not only are America’s current EV buyers willing to pay full list price, but many of them also wear it as a badge of honor that they’ve done so. They know exactly what they want, so they don’t need to talk to a salesperson, either about the car or about financing. And because they tend to have multiple vehicles in their personal or family fleet, they are much more likely to be willing to wait for delivery, live with range limitations, live with the time and planning it takes to recharge, and deal with service delays.

But this buyer type is not likely to dominate the EV market over the coming years. Why? Because the vehicles are changing. And as the EV market moves further into the mainstream, its customers will come to resemble the average car buyer more and more.

This is a good thing! All dealers should be ecstatic that going forward, when we talk about how to foster adoption of EVs in the U.S., we won’t be talking exclusively about how to market expensive sports cars and luxury SUVs, but instead will be talking about how to best market electric pickup trucks and other moderately priced EV options.

It’s the EV customers of the future we need to cater to if we are to have meaningful and broad EV adoption.

And we can finally start to think realistically about doing so. We are essentially at the doorstep of selling a wide variety of EVs – real, functional, non-niche EVs – to mass-market car buyers for the first time. And to sell effectively to mass-market buyers, you need to capitalize on what has worked for mass-market buyers for generations.

Things like consumer education about the product, help with comparing models, working with a customer’s budget constraints, financing assistance, helping with trade-ins, allowing test drives, and – yes – even good old-fashioned tire kicking. And this is all in addition to the new challenges specific to EVs, such as the complexities of charging – the fact, for instance, that electric rates vary based on the time of day and the level of charge – and other variables that don’t exist in the ICE market.

Dealers are absolutely essential in this world of new EVs. Because once you get into the mass-market, you will not achieve broad acceptance of any product, regardless of how it’s powered, by rejecting the attributes of the sales and service process that mass-market vehicle buyers are accustomed to and depend on to confidently choose the right vehicle at the right price that best meets all their needs.

Opponents of the franchise system have long said dealers are an impediment to EV sales in the U.S. This has never been true. And moving forward, this type of thinking will be dangerous if our goal is to sell a greater number of EVs to a broader segment of the American market.

This is a critical juncture. It’s a good time for policymakers and stakeholders to think critically about what it will take to sell EVs in greater volumes to customers who haven’t yet experienced EVs. The reality is that it’s going to take a lot.
It’s going to take a network of tens of thousands of retail and service points located in just about every corner of the country, not just a website.

It’s going to take hundreds of thousands of knowledgeable sales staff, not just a 1-800 number.

And it’s going to take hundreds of thousands of highly-trained technicians capable of providing professional service on the spot, not just mobile repair trucks.

It’s going to take dealers. Fortunately, we’re already here, and we are raring to go.