Even in the Nordic countries, car dealerships are a major barrier to EV adoption

Prius Plug-In (Charged EVs)

It’s not really news that auto dealerships are a significant roadblock to wider EV adoption. A 2017 study found that most traditional dealers have few EVs in their inventory, and are unprepared to answer customers’ questions about EVs. In some cases, dealers actively discourage buyers from going electric.

A new study from Aarhus University in Denmark, “Dismissive and deceptive car dealerships create barriers to electric vehicle adoption at the point of sale,” published in Nature Energy, reiterates that car dealerships pose a significant barrier to EV adoption.

In 126 “mystery shopper” experiences at 82 car dealerships across Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, the Aarhus University team found that that dealers were dismissive of EVs; misinformed shoppers on vehicle specifications; omitted EVs from the sales conversation; and steered customers towards gas and diesel vehicles.

The study authors also interviewed 30 experts from automakers, importers and trade associations. A majority of these noted that dealership management and sales personnel are uninterested in selling EVs because of anticipated low profitability, lack of knowledge and the greater time required to close a sale.

Among the study’s findings:

  • Out of the 126 dealership visits, only 8.8% of the encounters resulted in the shoppers preferring an EV option over a legacy ICE vehicle; this drops to just 2.9% outside of Norway.
  • In 77% of the dealerships visited that had EV models available, the salesperson did not mention the existence of the brand’s EV.
  • In two-thirds of all the shopping experiences, sales personnel strongly encouraged the customer to select a gas or diesel vehicle, and actively dismissed EVs, even when dealerships had EV models for sale.
  • In 71% of the visits, dealers demonstrated either low knowledge of EVs or none at all.


Source: Green Car Congress

  • nordlyst

    You got the Nordics right for once, congratulations. But it’s not a great idea to look at the Nordic countries as a group in this respect, because unlike in many other areas, say, taxation levels or criminal justice systems, the countries don’t have a lot in common when it comes to EV policy or even broader car policy.

    Specifically, Norway has a completely different EV policy, and situation, than the four other countries. As you mention:

    > Out of the 126 dealership visits, only 8.8% of the encounters resulted in the shoppers preferring an EV option over a legacy ICE vehicle; this drops to just 2.9% outside of Norway.

    Since only Iceland has a smaller population than Norway in this group, probably less than 15% of the visits where in Norway, and yet the *average* including Norway is triple what it is without.

    So while the story may be perfectly accurate factually, I don’t think it’s helpful. If the idea is to imply that dealerships are just fundamentally in opposition to EVs (as one might expect, given the reduced maintenance needs of EVs), just see if you can get hold of the Norway data. From the above finding it’s clear that dealerships in Norway must have overwhelmingly favoured electric cars. Even though that’s only one third of their sales. And there are waiting lists for most, giving most dealers an incentive to play down EVs compared to if they had stock or could deliver (and collect) quickly.

    If dealerships could decide they wouldn’t go with EVs, because it reduces the maintenance which is an important part of their business. But they’re not idiots; they don’t decide and they know they don’t. The experience in Norway suggests that as soon as EVs become a significant part of their business, dealers accept where their future is heading and start adapting.

    In Europe there’s anyway nothing to stop manufacturers from selling directly to consumers, and nothing to stop new dealerships starting up that are better adapted to being mainly efficient retailers and much less a garage, if that’s what the market needs.

    Even the US, where legislation in many states give dealerships too much protection, will change anyway as the entire car ownership model is set up for disruption. Autonomy and car sharing will mean much fewer vehicles on the road, putting far more miles under their belt, and living shorter yet running longer, will change the industry completely. Direct-to- consumer sales won’t matter much if consumers no longer want to own cars. Manufacturers may operate fleet services themselves, or, more likely, supply fleet operators with vehicles.

    The EV switch actually will take much longer if fleets don’t become reality, and fully autonomous cars is the critical piece of the puzzle that’s currently missing to enable car sharing.