An incident that saw a potential electric car buyer first rebuffed, then talked down, by two separate dealerships has highlighted one of the major problems in the industry: Many car dealers are simply not interested, or don’t have the information, to deal with EV inquiries.
Stories of EV buyers frustrated by the indifference and knowledge gap of traditional car dealers are rife, and affect most car dealers where EV options form just a minor part of the overall offering. It speaks to both a cultural problem (information and bias) and a broader issue for the car industry as it adapts to changing technology and a changing business model.
The latest incident to come to light, on social media, highlights once again the resistance to electric cars of some dealers who do not understand the new technology and who are concerned about a loss of income from servicing schedules on internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles.
The buyer in the question, who has chosen to remain anonymous, shared their experience in an electric car enthusiasts group, said the whole experience kicked off at a Brisbane Hyundai dealership when they were left waiting for a pre-booked test drive.
They gave up. But keen to buy an electric car, they decided to visit a rural dealership outside Brisbane to hit two birds with one stone – supporting regional areas and well, test driving an electric car. In this particular case, it was the Hyundai Ioniq – which comes with either a hybrid, plug-in hybrid and electric powertrain.
This is where the whole journey went pear-shaped, said the potential buyer, leaving the couple feeling as if the dealer thought they were stupid for wanting to buy an electric car.
According to the potential buyer, the dealer first questioned why on earth they would want to buy the electric version of the Ioniq. He then claimed that its range was not suitable, it couldn’t charge at home, and it would need extensive servicing.
Notably, the potential buyer says that when they’d previously requested a servicing schedule for the Kona Electric and Ioniq Electric, they’d been sent a schedule for the internal combustion engine (or hybrid) versions.
This is how he relates it:
Anyway, the salesman’s first question was “Why do you want to go Electric?”
Well, to save money
“So you’re aware the hybrid is over $10,000 cheaper?”
“So you want the Hybrid?”
No, I want the BEV
“But it’s more expensive”
Yes. I know that, but long term it’s cheaper. The fuel savings alone for my wife driving 800km a week will be good enough over the life of the car. She drives 200km a day, 4 days a week.
“You know it’s real world range is only around 300km each charge right?”
Yes, but she doesn’t drive over 300km in a hit normally, it’s her commute, 90km one way, 90km return, might do some shopping on the way home.
“Where do you plan to charge it?”
“Do you have the capacity to do that?”
My house has electricity. So yes. (Personally I’m thinking who doesn’t have electricity at their house these days)
“Yes, but do you have the capacity to charge at home?”
Mate, I’ve got single and 3 phase, and solar, yes, I can charge.
“But you know the Electric is $10,000 more expensive than the Hybrid right?”
Yeah you said that, but I’m saving on the servicing.
“But the electrics still need servicing”
Yeah on that, what are you servicing there? Because other EV manufacturers don’t do 15,000km services, and when I contacted the other dealer in Brisbane that I attempted to go to in February on both the Kona and Ioniq, they sent me the standardised Hyundai combustion motor service schedule. First on the lost was “Change engine oil” which clearly they are not doing as an electric doesn’t have an engine.
(At this point he seemed to get a bit flustered)
“Yeah well they check your brake pads, bushes, brake fluid, umm, do software updates, top up your coolant, you know, normal service stuff”
As our potential buyer points out, this is “Normal service stuff”.
“I’ll be honest, I have never once needed to service my brake fluid, pads, busted or coolant every 15,000kms,” the buyer says. “Brake fluid every 5 years generally to avoid it becoming waterlogged, about the same on brake pads, and if you are topping up Coolant every 15,000kms, it’s going somewhere.
“That’s an issue if it’s part of the service schedule to top up the coolant. Bushes? They should be lasting 75-100,000kms. Easy. Especially on a highway car. Not 15,000kms. As for software updates, there is zero need to go to a dealer and pay for them, even LDV does them for free,” he said.
But it gets better (or worse depending on how you look at it), because the dealer then trashes Tesla, which is the most successful electric car maker on the planet.
“Yeah but you wouldn’t buy a Tesla would you”
I’m considering it in comparison.
“Yeah but you know, the Americans make bad cars, and honestly, Tesla is the worst of the bunch”
Oh yeah, do tell. What makes them so bad.
[Cue about a 5 minute tirade on trim falling off, seats not locking in place, paint issues, panel gaps, frunks flying open on the highway, etc. He got passionate, he clearly detests Tesla]
Yeah fair enough, Tesla sound pretty shit then. So when might you have an Electric in for us to have a look at?
“Don’t know, we don’t really sell many of them, they’re just too expensive”
Really? Despite the savings?
“Yeah well you aren’t really saving much when you think about it”
No worries, well thanks for your time.
[At this point we left]
The no-longer-potential buyer (at that dealership anyway) says that this is a Furphy, because with the lower running and maintenance costs of the EV, it would pay itself off in five years.
He even kindly shared his sums comparing the price and running costs of the range-topping Hyundai Ioniq hybrid, to a comparative all-electric Ioniq:
So 800km × 42 weeks my wife works per year = 33,600km
At 7l/100km that’s 2,352l of fuel, at $1.21/l that’s $2,845.92
So if the Ioniq has a 38.3kWh battery and a real world range of 300km, that’s 127.6Wh/km
So per year that’s 4,289,600.01Wh or 4,289.60001kWh
Now with the solar feed in and nightly but back, it evens out around $0.05/kWh so that’s $214.480001 per year to run that car.
That’s a saving of $2,631.44 per year just on fuel.
So at $10,000 more (in reality the top Ioniq is $58,123 and the top of line Hybrid is $44,917 which is actually $13,209 which is what I’ll use)
$13,209 ÷ $2,631.44 = 5.01976134 years
So after 5 years, I’m saving money easily. That’s not counting the insurance savings, the rego savings, if I save around $300 a year on rego that brings me to $2,931.44 and brings it to:
$13,209 ÷ $2,931.44 = 4.50597658 years, saving 6 months off the cost difference.
“Like, it’s pretty clear to me that the electric car is far cheaper to run, far cheaper than he was even implying that it would be. He was even suggesting as if we could not charge it at home, as if there’s some type of magical way to charge it,” he says.
While the exchange is certainly an interesting read, and points as much to local resistance as the much bigger challenge of big car companies adapting their business models, we must point out that in this case, our potential buyer has had a happy outcome.
While Hyundai Australia declined to comment when we contacted them, the buyer in question has since confirmed with us that the Brisbane-based dealership has reached out to rectify the situation, and that they will test drive the Ioniq electric in coming days.
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She specialises in writing about new technology and has been writing about electric vehicles for two years. She has a keen interest in the role that zero emissions transport has to play in sustainability and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum.