Car dealers are unsure if consumers will embrace the all-electric future

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So far, surveys show consumers prefer gasoline-powered vehicles

General Motors has committed to producing no gasoline-powered cars by 2030; Ford says it will only sell electric vehicles in Europe by 2035.

You’d think that consumers must be clamoring for electric vehicles if automakers are making such an abrupt pivot from vehicles powered by fossil fuels. But a report by The Wall Street Journal says they aren’t. In fact, the report found that car dealers are concerned that the industry’s sudden embrace of electric vehicles, pushed by government mandates, could result in a radical drop in new car sales.

Brad Sowers, a GM dealer in St. Louis, says he has yet to see any enthusiasm among his customers for electric vehicles. Last year his dealership sold 4,000 Chevrolets, but only nine were the all-electric Chevy Bolt.

“The consumer in the middle of America just isn’t there yet,” Sowers told The Journal. 

‘Concerned for automakers’

Dealers who have to sell the cars that manufacturers turn out don’t seem all that enthusiastic about electric vehicles, despite governments demanding their production.

The government mandates have caused about 180 GM dealers -- about 20 percent -- to decide to drop their Cadillac franchises rather than incurring the cost of the upgrades that GM has required to sell its planned line of electric cars.

“Frankly, we’re concerned for automakers,” said Kristin Kolodge, executive director of driver interaction & human machine interface research at JD Power.

J.D. Power’s 2020 Mobility Confidence Index Study, released in April, flashed a warning sign to the auto industry. It warned that manufacturers are plowing ahead producing cars that, so far at least, most consumers have not asked for.

While it is true that the technology is evolving quickly, the survey found that even consumers who have previously owned an electric vehicle aren’t really interested in buying another one. They cite the lack of charging infrastructure, the cars’ limited driving range per charge, and the purchase price as their main objections.

The researchers also fault the industry for its efforts to educate consumers about electric vehicles. They note that 70 percent of consumers have never ridden in an electric vehicle, and 30 percent know nothing about them.

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