by Alistair Jeff

From annual sales of 130,000 EVs to weekly sales of the same volume, US dealers are working to deal with the accelerating shift away from ICEs and the impact on the retail model. It was an issue addressed by a NADA Super Session, workshops and numerous tech providers at the huge Expo. The critical importance for dealers of adapting to the evolution was clear from NADA President Mike Stanton:

“Dealers are excited; they are all-in with EVs.”

The “All in” message is important, not just in demonstrating dealers’ commitment to EVs but also in sustaining the regulatory protection US dealers enjoy for the most part in blocking OEMs from selling direct. The agency model emerging in Europe is likely to face more significant challenges across the Atlantic.

Returning to EVs, there was plenty of debate about whether EVs demand a different selling approach. At least in the short term, there will be a need to educate and reassure buyers about how an EV works, drives and charges. NADA has committed itself to a vast training programme, and there can be little question that it will be required to win hearts and minds both inside and outside of dealers. However, there was limited conversation about the impact on the dealer income model, which was a surprise. Focusing on sustaining chassis profit is just part of the equation.

While not common in the UK, lube servicing, which remains popular as an income and customer contact opportunity in the US, will decline. Less servicing and warranty work also seems inevitable. These incomes need to be replaced and new profit streams emerge.

The Expo provided some inspiration centred around add-on products. While services such as ceramic coatings exist in the UK, there is potential for high-quality finishes to reduce car-washing time and money and to keep a future part-exchange in excellent condition. One high-end vendor also expanded on linking such a finish with a subscription service that includes two valets per year to ensure the coating was kept in tip-top condition. It is this type of thinking and additional work on other added-value services that dealers should be considering.

The future of car retailing needs to be broader; the chassis sale is just the start. How do we make customers’ usage journeys more effortless, more enjoyable and less time-consuming? Herein probably lies the future EV retailing model.