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What Dealers Need to Know About the Evolving EV Customer



Sheryll Poe, Profile Picture, 175x175

Sheryll Poe


What do the next generation of EV drivers want? They want range, charging capability, electric SUVs and pickups, and knowledgeable staff at the dealership to guide them through all the benefits of owning an EV, according to a panel of auto industry experts at the 12th annual New York Auto Forum.

The panel, which was moderated by Glenn Mercer president of GM Automotive, discussed the “great range debate” or as J.D. Power’s Elizabeth Krear phrased it, “the great range race,” with manufacturers lining up to give consumers the miles they need to feel comfortable enough to buy an EV. Mercer pointed out that the average consumer drives 13 miles a day, yet when it comes to battery range, they’re demanding quite a bit more, primarily for those occasions where they’re taking a road trip.

According to J.D. Power’s research, six out of 10 EV rejectors say they need 500-mile range to change their mind. A much bigger segment said they needed a 300-mile range, which is more in line with the current EV fleet. “Really at the end of the day, customers don’t want to be left stranded,” Krear said.

They also want to see more SUVs and pickups, Krear noted. Currently, 80% of vehicles sold today are SUVs and pickups. OEMs have plans to introduce roughly 22 new EVs this year, including four pickup models and five SUVs.

For Rob Cochran of Pittsburgh-based Cochran Automotive, the customers he talks to are EV “curious” but not ready to commit fully. That’s where plug-in hybrids can come in. “We have more people asking questions and opening up to the idea that maybe it’s for them at some point,” he said.

OEMs could also help dealers navigate this transition better by providing more information on term goals or projections, rather than just focusing on the long-term goal. “Some of the things we hear is that ‘We have these initiatives by 2030,’” Cochran explained. “But [we need] more specific details on what the next two-, three-, four-, five years will look like so we can prepare our market for it. That information I believe is—or should be out there—and the OEMs could help by being more transparent and sharing that information with us.”

The New York Auto Forum, hosted by the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA), J.D. Power and the New York International Auto Show (NYIAS), took place on April 12 at the Javits Center.