The demand is there, but the sales skills aren't.
The drive toward a full-electric future is running full-steam ahead, and BMW is ready. In addition to the launch of the highly anticipated iX, which will join the i4, BMW is also making massive changes to its plant in Munich.
In a bid to make half its range electric by 2023, half the plant's output at Munich has to be electric. That's a massive step for a plant that's nearly a century old, churning out millions of ICE cars.
That's the easy part, however. A building is an inanimate object without emotions, and the robots in there are equally subservient.Bloomberg recently reported on another major issue facing the change over to electrification. It sat down at a roundtable discussion with Pieter Nota, a board member of management at BMW AG. "The big challenge to selling EVs is training car dealers," said Nota. "We are hitting the market exactly when the time is right. When demand is rising and when charging is making strong progress."
He's not wrong. The range continues to increase, and charging times are dropping. Various manufacturers are offering free charging, and the White House recently announced that it plans to spend $7.5 billion on EV charging stations. In short, the cars and the infrastructure are moving forward at a rapid pace.
Tom Moloughney, a senior editor at Inside EVs, was also present at the discussion. "One of the impediments to mass electrification is the fact that dealers are not as informed as they should be," said Moloughney.
The interest is certainly there. Ford F-150 Lightning reservation figures are off the charts, and BMW's iX and i4 are selling out rapidly. Yet actual EV sales are less than 2% of the total market.
"Selling an electric car can take three to four times as long as selling an internal combustion vehicle," Moloughney says. "Salespeople don't hate electric cars, it's just that they're there to make money." By that logic, they punt the car that will sell the quickest.
In addition, switching over to EV means completely rethinking the way you refuel. Most likely at home, or at a rapid charging station. It also requires drivers to think about time and range, which is something we've never had to do before. When the gas needle gets low, you fill up and it takes less than five minutes, but you need to get into regular recharging habits with an EV.
That's basically the heart of the problem. Selling an EV to an early adopter is easy. They've done their homework and they're willing to switch over to something new. But what happens when you need to convince a non-car person or a retiree who spent their whole lives in a Caddy with a V8?
For decades they've done things a certain way. The car uses fuel, and you top it up.
Another problem is salespeople face questions they often aren't au fait enough with the tech to answer correctly. What is the difference between Level 1 and Level 2 charging? How long will the battery last? Will it keep on charging if I leave it in the garage unattended? How much will an EV increase my electricity bill? How do I know where the charging stations are? We know the answers to these questions, but many people don't.
Manufacturers are making changes, however. Before the launch of the Taycan, Porsche launched an EV training program for every one of its dealerships. Since then, there have been more than 30 training programs to keep salespeople up to date. BMW has also confirmed that it will be launching something similar once the iX arrives in dealers.
Things are slowly changing, however. Volkswagen doubled its EV sales this year, and EV sales for the third quarter stood at 10.4% market share. But one thing remains clear: the car-buying market still needs a lot of education if EVs are to become truly viable.