Sunday, November 29, 2015

A Car Dealers Won’t Sell: It’s Electric - The New York Times

A Honda salesman gave a test drive to a customer in an electric car in San Rafael, Calif. Many dealers are unenthusiastic about selling electric cars. (Credit: Jason Henry for The New York Times) Click to Enlarge.
More than seven years ago, President Obama called for one million electric cars to be on the road by this year, and the vehicles have gained a large fan club. Environmentalists promote them as a smart way to cut dangerous emissions.  Owners love their pep and the gas money they save.  Apple and Google have jumped into the race to build next-generation battery-powered cars.

So why are only about 330,000 electric vehicles on the road?  One answer lies in an unexpected and powerful camp of skeptics: car dealers.  They are showing little enthusiasm for putting consumers into electric cars.  Some buyers even tell stories of dealers talking them into gas cars and of ill-informed salespeople uncertain how far the cars can go on a charge or pushing oil changes that the cars don’t need.  And industry officials themselves acknowledge a hesitancy to sell cars that may not suit drivers’ needs.

In a speech this year, the former chairman of the National Automobile Dealers Association, a trade group, said that tougher fuel-economy regulations can mean pushing cars on consumers that are about as enticing as broccoli, when they really want “low-calorie doughnuts” like fuel-efficient gas cars.  The former chairman, Forrest McConnell, cited a survey finding that 14 percent of buyers cited fuel efficiency as the most important factor in buying a car.

“That was a nice way of saying 86 percent of them didn’t think so,” he said.

Others disagree that consumers think of zero emissions cars as broccoli.  “That would be interesting if it was true,” said Mary Nichols, chairwoman of the Air Resources Board, a California agency that Gov. Jerry Brown has charged with developing policies to spur electric car sales.  Ms. Nichols said she believes that consumers want these cars and that they have been dissuaded in part by unenthusiastic dealers and “horror story” sales experiences.

California has 150,000 electric cars, but that figure needs to grow tenfold in the next decade, she said, or the state will not be able to meet its environmental goals.  Without the cars, “simply put, we can’t make it,” she added.

Read more at A Car Dealers Won’t Sell: It’s Electric

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