Electric Vehicle Consumer Adoption


October 12th, 2023

Post by Donna Marbury, Smart Columbus Storyteller

Educating and engaging local car dealerships is an important piece to the electrification puzzle. Increasing electric vehicle (EV) adoption within the Columbus Region meant that Smart Columbus had to partner with local car dealerships to understand how to market EVs, and to educate sales staffs that would serve as the final engagement in the consumer journey to purchasing an EV.

In September 2016, the Smart Columbus team met with the Electrification Coalition to understand the role dealerships play in EV adoption, and how to forge impactful partnerships with them. Many are often looking for philanthropic and meaningful ways to make an impact in the local community. 

A case study on Drive Electric Northern Colorado (DENC), the first EV community-wide project developed by the Electrification Coalition, gives insight on how to engage dealers in a way that acknowledges their goals while incorporating smart city initiatives.

Research from DENC shows that EV sales are just one part of dealerships becoming an integral part of smart city planning. Other initiatives that dealerships can drive include:  

  • Public, workplace and neighborhood ride and drive events
  • Extended test drives
  • Community engagement of new and existing EV owners
  • Corporate pricing and engagement

In order for car dealerships to be a part of the solution, there needs to be significant groundwork laid to successfully engage them. At the time of the presentation, it was discussed that dealerships in the Midwest likely find it challenging to order the right amount of inventory to meet demand. Second, it is important that dealerships prioritize hiring and training staff that specialize in EV sales. Other barriers include training staff mechanics on EV maintenance and gauging the market on EV demand.  

Presentations from experts in EV sales and education gave Smart Columbus insight on how to better understand dealerships and create strategies for engaging them. 

Overcoming EV Sales Challenges

Dr. Eric C. Cahill of Adaptiv Consulting found that early analysis of the EV buying experience showed that customers had lower overall satisfaction with the sales experience, limited availability of EVs at dealerships and that salespeople had poor knowledge of EVs. 

His research also noted that EV customers are viewed by dealers as more demanding and take longer to make a purchase. Cahill offers guidelines for reaching EV customers and fulfilling their needs, which include: 

  • Providing a learning-friendly, low pressure environment
  • Displaying a variety of makes and models
  • Allowing customers to drive multiple cars
  • Aligning public incentives with dealer practices
  • Influencing the customer’s social network

Opportunities and Barriers of the EV Resale Market

Dr. Gil Tal of the Plug-In Hybrid & Electric Vehicle Research Center of the University of California-Davis researched the value of the EV resale market, and how dealers can meet EV shoppers expectations.

A survey of EV buyers found that 46 percent found their used EV at a dealership. Tal suggests that dealerships pay close attention to EV customers to give them the right awareness and education about the used EV market.

Electric Vehicle Dealer Engagement Strategy

David Roberts, senior consultant at the Vermont Energy Investment Corporation, gave insight on how organizations such as Smart Columbus can meet the needs of dealers in order to educate and engage them about EV consumers.

Roberts says initial steps include piloting engagement programs with dealers that volunteer and tailoring sales incentives to the market.


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