45% of US car dealers won’t sell you an EV – here’s what’s going on

Sixty-six percent of US car dealers don’t have any EVs to sell, and 45% said they wouldn’t sell them no matter what, according to a new report from Sierra Club about the EV shopping experience in the US.

Conversely, the authors report that out of the 66% of dealerships that don’t have any EVs, 44% want to sell them when they can get them. Those who want to sell EVs say that stock bottlenecks are caused by supply chain problems, inventory challenges, and EV automaker allocation to dealerships.

Sierra Club’s new report is called “Rev Up Electric Vehicles: A Nationwide Study of the Electric Vehicle Shopping Experience,” and it’s based on over 800 surveys of auto dealerships and stores across all 50 states. The environmental organization shared testimonials from dealers around the US, and responses varied widely depending on representatives’ car availability, knowledge, and attitude.

A dealer representative at Tyrrell-Doyle Chevrolet in Wyoming said, “We need to install chargers first before the automaker can send us EVs to sell.”

A dealer representative at J and R Car and Truck Center in Kansas said, “We haven’t gotten into EVs just yet, we’re not really moving toward that yet but we’re starting to talk about selling [them].”

And a visitor to Courtesy Chevrolet in Arizona said, “I was able to test drive the EV because they were sufficiently charged. I bought a new Chevy Bolt EV.”

The EV buying experience at car dealerships was also heavily impacted by geographical regions and car brands.

Sierra Club compared results among five regions: the Northeast (11 states plus DC), the Southeast (12 states), the West (11 states), the Southwest (four states), and the Midwest (12 states). It supplemented its findings with EV sales and market share data for 2022 from Atlas Public Policy.

Only 27% of dealers in the Western region had an EV available for sale – the lowest availability among all regions. However, the Western region sold far more EVs than the rest of the US – 45%, or 423,993 of EV sales in 2022 – so Sierra Club’s authors concluded that low EV availability is a result of high consumer demand and sales turnover.

The Southeast was the region with the highest percentage of EVs available for sale, at 41%, and the region sold 158,777 EVs, or 17% of EV sales nationwide, coming in third among six regions.

There are 27 states that don’t allow direct sales from automakers like Tesla and Rivian. And that impacts EV sales: States that allow direct sales sold 65% of EVs in the US.

Sierra Club notes that more dealers in the 13 states with zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) programs indicated that they would sell EVs if it weren’t for inventory or supply challenges. The authors found that ZEV states accounted for 61% of the US’s total EV sales. In other words, ZEV policy works.

And when it came to car brands – the study participants contacted automakers representing 18 different automaker ownership groups – Mercedes-Benz led the pack when it came to EV availability. Ninety percent of Mercedes-Benz dealerships surveyed had an EV available for sale.

Toyota placed second to last, with only 15% of Toyota dealers having an EV available for sale, and in dead last was Honda, with 11% of dealers having an EV for sale.

Sierra Club authors recommend that car dealers partner with utilities to install EV chargers on-site, train salespeople regularly on EV charging, consumer incentives, and effective sales strategies and display EVs prominently.

And, of course, automakers need to make more EVs and incentivize car dealers to sell them.

Read more: Global electric car sales’ ‘explosive growth’ – in numbers

Photo: Tesla

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