Dismissive and deceptive car dealerships create barriers to electric vehicle adoption at the point of sale

Abstract

As most consumers do not have pre-existing knowledge of electric vehicles (EVs), and current market conditions favour petrol and diesel vehicles, car dealership experiences may strongly influence EV purchasing decisions. Here, we show that car dealerships pose a significant barrier at the point of sale due to a perceived lack of business case viability in relation to petrol and diesel vehicles. In 126 shopping experiences at 82 car dealerships across Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, we find that dealers were dismissive of EVs, misinformed shoppers on vehicle specifications, omitted EVs from the sales conversation and strongly oriented customers towards petrol and diesel vehicle options. Dealers' technological orientation, willingness to sell and displayed knowledge of EVs were the main contributors to likely purchase intentions. These findings combined with expert interviews suggest that government and industry signalling affect sales strategies and purchasing trends. Policy and business strategies that address barriers at the point of sale are needed to accelerate EV adoption.

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Fig. 1: Salesperson rankings for EVs in the Nordic region.
Fig. 2: Likelihood of EV purchases.

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Acknowledgements

The authors are grateful to X. Lin and K. Probert for support in conducting some of the mystery shopping visits at dealerships. The authors are grateful to the Research Councils United Kingdom (RCUK) Energy Program Grant EP/K011790/1 ‘Center on Innovation and Energy Demand’, and the Danish Council for Independent Research (DFF) Sapere Aude grant 4182-00033B ‘Societal Implications of a Vehicle-to-Grid Transition in Northern Europe’, which have supported elements of the work reported here. Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the RCUK Energy Program or the DFF. This project has also received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement no. 730403 ‘Innovation pathways, strategies and policies for the Low-Carbon Transition in Europe (INNOPATHS)’. The content of this deliverable does not reflect the official opinion of the European Union. Responsibility for the information and views expressed herein lies entirely with the authors.

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The idea and design for the research was co-developed by all authors. G.Z.d.R led the implementation of the study. G.Z.d.R and L.N. conducted all field research and data analysis. All authors contributed to writing the paper.

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Correspondence to Gerardo Zarazua de Rubens.

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G.Z.R. and B.K.S. declare no competing financial interests. L.N. has a competing financial interest as a consultant in a start-up company that is establishing businesses to provide grid services from EVs. B.K.S. is on the editorial advisory board of Nature Energy.

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Zarazua de Rubens, G., Noel, L. & Sovacool, B.K. Dismissive and deceptive car dealerships create barriers to electric vehicle adoption at the point of sale. Nat Energy 3, 501–507 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41560-018-0152-x

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