One Key to Selling More EVs: Engaging the Sales Staff


By Vaasha Lutchman

August 30, 2021

Co-authored by Karen Glitman

As the transition to electric vehicles (EVs) revs up, the nation’s over 16,000 new car dealerships will be key to driving the market’s success.  

The president and CEO of the National Automobile Dealers Association, Mike Stanton, recently said, “Dealers are all in on EVs and incredibly excited about the new electrified products that are being announced almost daily.” 

Consumer interest in EVs is increasing as more models come out, prices drop, and technology improves. Sales staff are the frontline of new EV marketing.  

But do dealerships and their staff have what they need to close the sale? 

EV customers have questions 

When the Center for Sustainable Energy (CSE) surveyed California car dealerships, most respondents said the questions they get from customers are about where and how to charge EVs and how much that will cost. Those questions are beyond the scope of vehicle specifications and options that automakers provide.

Customers are looking to dealership staff as a support system beyond the sale, for information on incentives, charging and more. Well-informed sales staff are essential to supporting the customer’s EV journey. 

Sales staff need answers 

That’s why CSE has joined with new car dealer associations in several states to provide unbiased education on EVs and guidance on addressing common customer questions.  

In partnership with dealer associations, CSE creates targeted resources to inform dealership staff, attract customers and boost sales. These efforts include webinars and one-on-one sales training, marketing materials and an online catalog of sales resources.  

In partnership with the California New Car Dealers Association (CNCDA), CSE’s dealer outreach team created the California Auto Dealers Guide to EVs to close the gaps in manufacturers’ model-specific training and give staff the confidence to handle customers’ broader EV questions. The guide includes a comprehensive comparison of internal combustion engine vehicles to EVs, simplifying issues such as battery degradation and perceived EV safety concerns. In response to the dealer survey, five pages are dedicated to home and public charging. The guide also links to other EV resources and available EV incentives. 

For example, a California EV buyer last year could have been eligible to stack five different rebates totaling $14,000 depending on where they lived and whether their income qualified them for equity incentives. Nationally, an average EV owner can expect to save $9,000 in fuel costs and $4,600 on maintenance over the 200,000-mile lifetime of an EV.  

CNCDA President Brian Maas says the guide “is one of our members’ most valuable tools for educating and motivating their staffs to sell more electric vehicles.” 

This year, CSE partnered with the New Jersey Coalition of Automotive Retailers to produce the Charge Up New Jersey EV Dealer Guidebook to help the coalition’s 500 new car dealerships take advantage of growing interest in EVs from the state’s incentive program. 

Working with auto dealer associations in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York and Oregon, CSE has created localized dealer outreach, webinars and sales resources in support of state EV goals.  

Dealers also need data 

We also work with the Alliance for Automotive Innovation to compile data for the Electric Vehicle Sales Dashboard that provides nationwide statistics on how the EV market is changing over time and sales by state. But we do more than look in the rear-view mirror. 

Using Caret®, CSE’s proprietary EV software platform, we can project EV market growth based on proposed federal and state policies. This platform is being used by our existing clients to forecast EV markets at the state level and has been used by federal policymakers as they consider federal EV and EV infrastructure programs. 

America’s EV market needs to grow vastly and rapidly to reduce the emissions that are worsening climate change. That will require auto dealers to be thoroughly engaged and equipped to educate their customers. We are eager to partner with auto dealers and associations that share our commitment to an all-electric future.  

If you’d like to learn more about CSE’s dealer services, contact Senior Manager of Dealerships & Fleets Vaasha Lutchman

Vaasha Lutchman

Senior Manager

Vaasha brings a passion for clean vehicles and project management to her role as Senior Manager for the Fleet and Dealership team for the Clean Vehicle Rebate Project. She oversees developing resources for dealers to sell EVs nationwide and advance CSE’s goal to decarbonize our busy roads.

Read more by Vaasha Lutchman