Dealerships Struggling to Sell EVs Have a Training Issue

EVs are no longer a fringe purchase. With many OEMs moving toward fully electric lineups within the next 20 years, EVs are a retail reality...

EVs are no longer a fringe purchase. With many OEMs moving toward fully electric lineups within the next 20 years, EVs are a retail reality that represent an entirely new set of technologies, features, and benefits relative to the last 100+ years of ICE-based transportation.

From a sales and service perspective, the EV move to mainstream is like starting from scratch. Hundreds of thousands of consumers will have redefined dealership expectations based on entirely new vehicle and system features, functions, and performance. As importantly, the lifestyle impact, such as cost of ownership, charging specifics, and infrastructure require a new level of content, conversation, and engagement.

This market changing evolution presents more challenges than the typical product innovation curve, where new model sales, marketing, and training typically focuses on new but recognizable product features and brand direction.

The facts speak for themselves:

  1. Pew Research reports that roughly 40% of Americans say they are somewhat likely to seriously consider buying an EV. Consumer Reports puts that number as high as 70%. And while sales of electric cars account for less than 2% of the market today, that tide is turning, quickly.
  2. Millennials hate going to dealerships. Plain and simple. Yet, since 2020, this cohort bought more new cars than any other age group, accounting for 32% of total sales, edging out baby boomers for the first time.

Dealers that ignore this reality do so at their own peril. Sales and service employees need training and support that delivers applicable skills, insights, and practice when it comes to customer engagement, product presentation, and delivery. Dealers also need to be front footed in their preparation to resolve objections with a consumer population that A) struggles with traditional sales models, and B) may still be skeptical about EV purchase and ownership.

Over the last decade, digital-based training and education has taken center stage over live, experiential training for myriad reasons - cost, flexibility, and usage chief among them. The negative upshot of this trend is that many organizations—especially large ones—have begun to lean too heavily on checking training requirement boxes with digital approaches that do not fully or effectively produce the desired results. Skills that require demonstrative, engaged communication often require training that is situational, featuring role-specific opportunity to practice with other humans and that include the necessary steps for critique and correction.

Unfortunately, one-way WBTs, digital flash cards, and simple video-based modelling with pass/fail testing protocols, while great in certain situations for some individuals, do not compare to the nuanced, pedagogical power of live, interactive instruction and role play.

The good news is that this reality doesn’t necessarily require a complete return to workshop or live event-based training. If recent hybrid trends, catalyzed by the COVID phenomenon have taught training developers and marketers anything at all, it is that we do not have to incur travel, design, and hosting expense to do person-to-person training and communications. Whether in-person or screen-to-screen, scenario-based training needs to be incorporated to ensure that retailers are capable and comfortable having the right conversations, sharing the right content, and making real connections with a growing consumer base.

It is an exciting time to be in the automotive business. This industry-accelerating move to EVs is the perfect incentive and opportunity to finally change the consumer perception of dealer culture from a “sell me” perspective, to a more premium, consultative “help me” one where dealership personnel become trusted advisors and educators instead of, well, salespeople.

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