Dealers Nervous About Electric Cars


Car dealers are nervous a shift from gas to electric cars will mean that they don’t see their customers as often as they currently do.

The design of the electric car is really simple. There’s not a lot of parts, so there won’t be much need for maintenance says Mark Perry, Nissan (NSANY) Americas’ head of Product Planning. When he said that, was speaking to a group of dealers at an event in New York to show off Nissan’s upcoming electric. (We stood outside the circle of dealers and listened in.)

That statement raised some eyebrows amongst the dealers. According to Hoovers, car dealers make about 10% of sales from service and parts for cars. While losing that revenue won’t sting too badly, what hurts worse is the fact that the dealer loses contact with its drivers.

If you’re not constantly visiting the dealership for oil changes or tune-ups or whatever, then you might forget the dealer. Selling cars is about developing a relationship.

To get around this, Perry and the dealers said they might explore leasing batteries to drivers. The model that came up was cell phones. Just like when your cell phone comes up on two years, you can return to the Verizon dealer and get a phone upgrade. Likewise, dealers could try to get you a new car for cheap, if they control the battery.

This model is similar to the strategy that Better Place plans on rolling out. In fact, Better Place’s Head of Oil Independence policies emailed us a few weeks ago and said, “Today our most controversial assertion is that separating car from battery is prerequisite for mass adoption of EVs, not just for convenient infinite range but also because the consumer shouldn’t be burdened with buying and owning that battery. Here’s my prediction: A year from today that will pretty much be accepted wisdom.”

Maybe he’ll be right. If he is, it’ll placate dealers and keep drivers coming back for more.

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