Dealers should be able to answer these questions about electric vehicles


Dealers should be able to answer these questions about electric vehicles

The next wave of electric vehicle buyers has a lot of questions about these vehicles that they should be able to ask their dealers.

Electric vehicles accounted for about 6% of auto sales in the United States in 2022, suggesting there is still a long way to go in educating and convincing potential car buyers to go electric. This means that the automakers pouring billions of dollars into developing and launching these cars are counting on the fact that their customers will have answers to their questions and concerns calm enough to pay a pretty penny.

Potential electric vehicle drivers have a lot of questions, and there's a lot you need to know before buying an electric vehicle. EV Ecosystems executive vice president Hoss Hasani told Insider in November that consumers have been asking "EV Live" call center representatives about home and public charging, battery longevity, serviceability, warranty — and whether they can run an EV through a wash. 

Of course, not every electric car is sold by an automaker that relies on dealers. Tesla and EV startups hoping to emulate its success run direct-to-consumer models instead. Regardless, here are some tips on what to ask your dealer or sales advisor if you're considering an EV purchase.

It is important for car buyers considering the purchase of an electric vehicle to ask about its suitability for the lifestyle of the average driver.

Does the range of electric cars fit into my lifestyle?

There's something to be said about not confusing the electric vehicle with one driving or connecting experience, but one negative experience or misunderstanding can be a turn-off sale and a loss.

That's why, while most consumers seem to skip their range concern (after all, the average driver doesn't need more than 300 miles of range), it's important to ask how an electric vehicle will fit into the lifestyle of the average driver.

"The most important thing for people is to understand the range and how much they drive," said Nigel Zeid, sales specialist and electric vehicle educator. "Explanation of not draining your battery to nothing — these are still, I think, the basic stuff."

How can electric cars be charged?

How it runs is one of the most notable transitions from a gas-powered car to an EV. Navigating the charging infrastructure can be challenging and intimidating for first-time electric vehicle buyers; They have indicated that it is a barrier to their adoption.

"We have consistently talked about the time burden, cost burden of installation, and other requirements of electric vehicle owners as a significant barrier to driving an electric vehicle," said Patrick Anderson, CEO of Anderson Economic Advisory Group. "This is a huge barrier to the mass adoption of electric vehicles."

From where to deliver, how to have, to shipping levels that exist, to types of shipping, and what to do if a shipper breaks down, merchants need to address concerns about how inconvenient, expensive, or inaccessible shipping can be.

The majority of EV charging can be done at home, especially overnight.

"They should be able to tell you right off the top of the head how long it will take you to charge home," said Buzz Smith, electric vehicle guru and retired auto salesperson who goes by "The Evangelist." "It's important that they describe why taking 10 hours to fill a car is OK."

But not all EV buyers have access to a garage. Those in multi-family living arrangements should ask about reliable public options.

What kind of warranty does the electric vehicle come with?

Car buyers can learn the ins and outs of the chemistry of their EV batteries. But given how dependent this market is on improvements in battery technology, dealers should still be willing to talk about what separates their EV battery from the competition.

"They need to understand at least the warranty of this drivetrain. Unlike a gas engine, three years, 36,000 miles, there's no standard right now," said Smith. "You must ensure you don't get a battery with a short warranty period."

Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles bring some nuance with two drivetrains, so it's important to ask what's covered on the electric side versus what's hidden on the gas side.

What kind of service does an electric vehicle need?

Many consumers would like to know the difference between servicing an internal combustion engine and an electric one.

Gas-powered vehicles require some maintenance that electric vehicles do not, such as an oil change. Electric cars also do not contain components such as transmissions or spark plugs.

Zaid said potential EV buyers should ask their dealers about annual battery checks and tire rotations every six months — the nuances of EVs.

How do I qualify for electric vehicle tax credits?

Addressing the total cost of ownership of electric vehicles and ways to take advantage of critical tax credits is key to penetrating the electric vehicle market. A new EV cost an average of $61,448 in December, per Kelley Blue Book (compared to an average of $49,507 paid for a new internal combustion engine-powered vehicle).

Used electric vehicle prices are dropping but came in at about $32,750 in December, while the average list price for a used gas-powered vehicle was $27,143 that month, per Cox Automotive.

The new and used CIA tax credits can be confusing, and some aspects of the new appropriations will change in March. The used credit (first launched this year) will remain the same, but the Internal Revenue Service and the US Treasury Department are expected to issue more guidance on whether new EVs qualify for the credit based on criteria for metals and critical battery components.

"Auto salespeople are not tax advisors or financial advisors," Smith said. "Now, we should be able to direct the consumer to government websites, even though they are difficult to understand and tell that information.

"They also need to know: Are there any incentives in your state or county? If you can choose your electric utility, even electric utilities might have EV incentives to buy a car, lease a car, or even charge a fee," Smith added. "It's like giving the consumer a discount. It's another motivation to buy now if you can help them with this step."

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