Survey Says: Dealers Are Key To Chevy Volt’s Success

By · October 02, 2012

Chevy Volt on dealership lot

There is a love-hate thing going on between Chevrolet dealers and the Chevy Volt. Some love it because they can offer really great lease deals, and are enamored with the technology. But a smaller number really dislike it. GM needs to find a way to turn more of its dealers on to the Volt, because they will be very important to boosting sales.

I’m basing this on conversations with dealers, and also on the results of an online survey by AutoRetailNet, a newish publication aimed at dealers. (Full disclosure—I am the west coast editor of AutoRetailNet, which has both monthly and weekly editions.) I read all the responses to our survey. They didn’t always reflect what you might imagine. Dealers in California disliked the Volt. Dealers in Wisconsin loved it. Even though Texas was forecast by Pike Research in a recent study to be a future hotbed of PEV ownership, a dealer in Texas said in the survey, “We can’t sell them here. The fad has worn off.”

An overwhelming 83.8 percent thought the time is right for the Volt. But only 56.4 percent thought Volt sales would increase in 2013; and 43.6 percent did not think sales would increase.

The main reason they cited for no increase was the Volt’s high price—61.5 percent thought the pricing was wrong. The main reason for sales increasing was reflected in this answer: “The Volt has an amazing amount of technology built into it. People who own one are very happy and great ambassadors for the vehicle. As word continues to build the sales will come.”

Split Decision

They were, however, extremely split on whether or not GM was correctly marketing the Volt. Some 38.5 percent thought the marketing of the Volt was poor or very poor; 46.2 percent thought it good or very good; 15.4 percent had no opinion. They were split on whether giving consumers more information about the Volt would attract more customers. A dealer in Kansas thought GM should stress fuel savings, not “greenness.” A California dealer thought GM had talked up the Volt too much and it was hurting sales. “Make a great car and let it speak for itself,” he said.

Getting dealers on the Volt’s side is crucial. A recent report by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace entitled “Policy Priorities for Advancing the U.S. Electric Vehicle Market” recommended using dealers as marketers and advocates to boost electric vehicle sales. Dealers are politically powerful and can support local EV initiatives with their legislators, as well as spreading information through advertising, said the report. “Automakers will need to work closely with dealers so that sales behavior meets customers’ expectations from first purchase to ongoing maintenance and repair,” the Carnegie report said.

Seems like GM needs to take that advice to heart.

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