Dealers and consumers alike know that the steady growth of electric vehicles (EVs) will require some lifestyle changes for vehicle owners, especially in developing a charging routine. Range anxiety is a common concern among potential EV purchasers. They want to know where they will charge, how long it will take, and if they have enough access to a charger network. As the frontline of consumer education in EVs, dealerships are finding innovative ways to answer these questions. One dealership offers monthly trials to customers who want to experience firsthand how an EV fits in their life.
Jim Butler Auto Group, located near St. Louis, Mo., offers month-long use of EVs so customers can address any concerns through experience. The program is a division of their driveBLACKTIE service, which combines all costs of car ownership, including insurance, mileage, and maintenance into a monthly fee. DriveBLACKTIE started with low-mileage, used luxury vehicles, but in the last year, users started requesting access to electric vehicles. There are currently 11 vehicles in the electric division.
Brad Sowers, president and CEO of Jim Butler Auto Group, has seen great interest in the program. “One of the items we’ve seen in the EV world, specifically here in the Midwest is that people are curious if an electric vehicle will fit into their lifestyle,” he said. “We think [the program] is a great opportunity to taste an electric vehicle, see if it fits in their lifestyle, and then move forward from there.”
As EV prices become more affordable, the consumer base widens. “You’re seeing a lot more mass market [consumers] start to think about an EV approach,” said Sowers, commenting that the dealership is moving past early adopters with high income levels. “The super wealthy are buying a Tesla for their third car – that’s not really our target.”
The Jim Butler Auto Group team takes advantage of the trial’s opportunity for consumer education on electrification. When the staff delivers the vehicle, they walk the user through the vehicle technology and any of the customer’s concerns. There is also a mobile app with a mapped charger network and platform to ask staff questions at any time.
Sowers has seen a third of users enjoying their vehicle so much that they purchase it. Another third continue to use the vehicle through the DriveBLACKTIE program. As General Motors continues to roll out their electric models, Sowers anticipates adding 10 to 20 vehicles to the program.