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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Houston, We Have a Problem

Nissan's infamous Polar Bear commercial
Even the most enthusiastic electric vehicle supporters have a hard time staying positive when the monthly sales figures for current electric vehicle offerings are announced. They haven't been good. In fact other than the Chevy Volt which is a plug in hybrid and not a pure electric car, EV sales have been pretty dismal indeed.

This has lead many pundits, especially the ones that lean to the right, to announce the electric car is a flop. "See" they say, "Nobody wants these plug in toys. The tree huggers were wrong!". However I believe you need to look into what is really going on here, rather then assume there isn't demand.

First, the current electric vehicle offerings aren't really that appealing. Other than the Tesla Model S which just launched recently, what EV out there would really get your adrenalin up? Let's look at what the list of electric vehicles currently available in the US:

The Nissan Catfish
The Nissan LEAF: The LEAF was the first mass produced all electric vehicle sold since the latest electric car movement came about and has sold the most all electric cars in the US, totaling about 15,000 units from launch through September of this year (~10,000 in 2011 and 5,212 so far in 2012). The LEAF was touted by Nissan to have a 100 mile range but in reality fell well short of the promise. The EPA rating came in at 73 miles per charge and most LEAF owners say that's just about right, in most conditions. Most conditions doesn't include the winter though. When it gets cold, the LEAF's primitive passive thermal management system really can't effectively keep the batteries warm and the range really suffers. I have a couple friends here in NJ that have LEAF's and they tell me they can barely get 55-60 miles per charge out of it from December to March. That drastically reduces the cars utility. Couple that with the very slow 3.3kW onboard charger and it's no wonder Nissan isn't moving them. Then there's the styling. I know styling is subjective, but I believe the vast majority of people think it's not an attractive car, and many say the front end looks like a catfish! Ask yourself this, if the LEAF looked the way it does and it was a gas car would it be selling well? I'm not so sure. In my opinion, the fact that Nissan over promising and under delivered on range, used a weak onboard charger and made questionable styling decisions are the real reasons the LEAF isn't selling as well as expected. Plus, it's only going to get worse for Nissan now that some LEAF's in hot weather areas are reporting significant premature battery degradation. Nissan's decision to not develop and implement an active thermal management system for the LEAF is starting to look like a serious mistake. All of the other cars mentioned here employ an active thermal management system, although the Mitsubishi i actively cools and heats with air which is less desirable than a liquid based system.

The Ford Focus EV:
Go to Ford's website to build your Focus. You are immediately shown that the gas Focus starts at $16,200 while the electric Focus starts at $39,200. The cars look the same and the electric one is $23,000 more! Is that how you sell electric cars?

Ford just started selling the converted Focus three months ago and through August had only sold 167 of them. They haven't been available everywhere in the US though and that has restricted sales, but clearly there hasn't been much of a demand for them. The base MSRP is $39,200 which is part of the problem. It's over $10,000 more than a fully loaded Focus ST so even after the Federal tax credit it's still about $3,000 more and has less options included. The EPA range rating is 76 miles so it's slightly better than a LEAF, but it does have active thermal management so the battery should perform better in weather extremes and last longer. It can also charge at a respectable 6.6kW's. Overall it's not a bad package if 70 to 80 miles is enough for you, I think most believe it isn't. What is really disappointing is Ford is doing little to nothing to promote it. I have yet to see a commercial, or anything letting know the car even exists. A friend of mine went to a dealer in Clifton, NJ a couple months ago to inquire about it and they had no idea when they would get them or even IF they would get them. He was told he may have to order it sight unseen if he really wanted one because they probably wouldn't be stocking them. I later found out that Ford is now only selling them by order, so they will not be stocked at dealerships. Surprised they aren't selling? I'm not.

The Mitsubishi i: Through August this year Mitsubishi has only sold 403 i's. The i is a very small car, with only a 47-kilowatt motor. It's not very peppy, has a top speed of only 81mph and has an EPA range of 62 miles per charge. In the cold weather, I've heard stories of people only getting 40 or 45 miles per charge, so the i is really a short range city car with very limited utility. Brad Berman of Plugincars.com recently wrote of the i "The limited driving range, cargo space, and generally cheap feel of the materials doesn’t seem to be worth the price tag of nearly $30,000" and I agree with that statement. Surprised the i isn't selling? I'm not.


The Tesla Model S. The model S is a beast. It's fast, sexy, charges at a high rate, and has three available levels of range - all better than any other other pure EV available. The problem is, it's expensive and there are doubts that Tesla will have staying power to be around long enough to back their warranty and provide long term service. Even the least expensive Model S is $57,400, and for that you don't even get leather interior or navigation system. Add those options and it's about $65,000. I expect the 40kW S to be rated at about 130 miles of range when the official EPA rating comes out. The 60kWh option is $10,000 more and the 85kWh battery is $20,000 more. There is no mistake it's the best electric vehicle available today, but the price will keep it out of most people's garages. This is the first car Tesla has engineered and built completely in house and they have been struggling since the launch to get production numbers up. They are well behind where they had hoped to be at this point and are basically inspecting every car by hand thoroughly for fit and finish defects as they come off the assembly line. On one hand it's great to hear how meticulous they are being to make sure everything is perfect, but on the other hand they need to get orders filled and cars delivered ASAP. If they don't increase production from a couple cars a day to dozens of cars a day they are going to be in serious financial crunch soon. Tesla hasn't provided monthly sales figures like the major auto manufacturers have, but did say they had delivered only 255 cars through September 23rd. They currently have about 13,000 Model S reservations, so there has been a good demand for the car even though it is quite expensive and that's a ray of hope in the otherwise dismal EV sales figures. This is a great EV and will sell, the question is can Tesla build them fast enough and still maintain the top notch quality expected of cars in this price class? Time will tell.

Yes, It's THIS ugly!
The Chevy Volt: The Volt has been attacked by the media more than any car in history. It's been lambasted and blamed for everything that bad in America. It's been a political football and labeled the Obamacar, even though President Obama has had nothing to do with the Volt's development. Yes, the Obama administration authorized the bailout of General Motors shortly after he took office, but that would have happened no matter who won the Presidency. Had John McCain won, there's no doubt he would have done the same thing. Why then, of all the cars sold by GM is the Volt the Obamacar? Why isn't the Chevy Silverado pick up truck called the Obama car it's also made by "Government Motors"? OK, maybe because the Silverado sells very well, and they picked on the Volt because it hasn't? That can't be true. The Volt has consistently outsold the Chevy Corvette nearly every single month since it's launch and they don't call the Corvette the Obamacar. The fact that the Volt has sold as well as it has under the current conditions is a testament to the fact that it must be a good car. So far GM has sold over 24,019 volts in total. 16,348 of which this year through September with monthly sales on the rise. The volt is a plug in hybrid so it offers less electric range than the other cars mentioned here, but it does have the versatility of the gasoline range extender allowing you to drive as far as you need to, albeit on gasoline. Having the flexibility of a gasoline range extender is attractive to some perspective plug in car buyers, especially if they aren't sure an all electric car can suit their driving needs. I think PHEV's are a good 'gateway drug' to pure electric cars. I have no doubt many Volt owners will transition to pure electrics when they get their next car.

The aliens are coming for your Volt!
Marketing & Selling Electric Cars: Here's where everyone besides Tesla gets a failing grade(and they get no grade because they haven't had to even begin marketing yet). Back when General Motors made and leased the EV-1, the first modern day serious electric car made by a major OEM, they were highly criticized for not really trying to market the car. Some people claimed it was as if they wanted it to fail so they could say "Hey we tried, but nobody wanted them". They made a few commercials and they actually looked eerie, not inspiring or uplifting. Honestly, today's electric cars aren't getting much better support from marketing and sales staff. It's a joke. When Nissan launched the LEAF they aired commercials that showed a polar bear walking from the Arctic all the way to some guys driveway to hug him for buying a LEAF. I guess Nissan is telling you to buy a LEAF to save the polar bears, not because you'll actually like the car. A few months later Chevy had a Volt commercial that they aired during the Super Bowl that had animated aliens in a garage looking at a volt. The owner then came out and tried to explain to the aliens how the volt worked because they couldn't understand it. Really? Polar bears and aliens? People get paid millions of dollars to come up with this stuff. What's going on here? Do you think this gimmicky crap is what sells cars? How about a commercial with pretty girls and handsome guys having fun? How about focusing on the quiet, smooth driving experience and the instant torque of the electric motor? How about a car full of collage age kids driving past a gas station, pointing and laughing at the suckers sitting there while the pump registers $30, then $40 then $50 then $60? Let me say this loud and clear: People want to enjoy their cars, regardless of the fuel used to power them. Electric cars aren't medicine that you have to take because the planet needs you to. They are fun, fast and provide a BETTER driving experience then their gas counterparts and that's why you'll want to buy an electric car, because it's better! You get the environmental, economic and sociopolitical benefits as a bonus, but you buy the car because you enjoy it. You want to sell electric cars, start advertising them for what they are - better cars!

Now that I'm getting warmed up it's time to start really getting critical. As bad as the marketing has been, the sales process is exponentially worse. I'm going to focus on Chevrolet, Ford and Nissan because I don't really have any first hand experience with Mitsubishi and Tesla has to offer good EV customer service because all they sell are electric cars so I assume they will- they can't steer you into a less expensive gas car they have sitting in their showroom. I have even visited a couple Chevy and Nissan dealers to see how customers seeking information on their plug-in offerings were treated and I didn't come away impressed.

Ford isn't even stocking the electric Ford Focus. You have to order one, sight unseen. I haven't been to a Ford dealer to inquire about the FFE, but as I mentioned above a friend of mine did and he was very disappointed in the experience. He certainly wasn't inspired to buy one. Ford is clearly making the FFE for CARB compliance, and is not really interested in selling many of them.

In the Nissan dealers I have visited weren't too bad. They really didn't highly recommend the LEAF, but they also didn't consciously try to steer me into a different vehicle, like I experienced in some Chevy dealerships. They were like "Sure, if it's a LEAF you want we'll be happy to service you." However the client advisers really didn't know much about the it and one even told me it would pretty much go 100 miles per charge regardless of the weather as long as I drove it properly, which it certainly not true. I challenge anyone to drive a LEAF 100 miles on a charge in New Jersey in January - it's not happening - I don't even think you can do 80. Some dealers have a LEAF or two which is good to see them there, but without a couple on hand with different options and colors to choose from it's really hard to say the car has a fair chance.

I have a real problem with what's going on in some Chevy dealerships. It really seems that there are a good number of dealerships that simply don't believe in the car and just don't want to sell them. Last year I convinced an acquaintance who happens to be the former Mayor of a local town, to check out the Volt. He went to a large local dealership and asked if he could see a Volt. He was abruptly greeted with "Why do you want to see one of them?" and then "Where do you plan to plug it in?" He was then shuffled over to look at a Chevy Cruze after he was told "It's basically the same car, except it's half the price and it gets nearly 40mpg" He wasn't even shown a Volt. When he stopped by the restaurant a few days later he said the salesman really discouraged him into looking further into the volt, and even told him he doesn't even know if they will continue making them! I was so pissed I went to the dealership a few days later to see how I would be treated. I had even thought about arming myself with a hidden camera to record how the Volt was being demonized from within but didn't want to get involved and any legal issue if I posted the video on YouTube. I don't know if I had the same salesman, but the approach was similar. I checked online before I went and the dealers website said they had two Volts in stock. When I got there I walked around and couldn't see any. Finally a salesman came outside to meet with me and when I asked if they had any Volts he said yes, he thinks they might have one. We walked inside to try to locate the Volt and he asked if I knew much about it and I responded "a little" but that I heard it's a good car and I like the idea of driving an electric car. He asked his manager and was told yes they do have two Volts, but they were "Out back, and blocked in by a few cars" and "If I really wanted to test drive it then it would take a little while to get them out." I said yes I wanted to and about ten minutes later they brought out a black Volt that had a nice film of dust on it. We got in to go and I noticed the battery was just about completely depleted and only had about 5 miles of range left. The salesman did the best he could to tell me about the car, but honestly he knew next to nothing. He didn't know the charge rate, he didn't know how big the battery was or what kind of batteries were used. I asked him if the batteries GM used had a problem with 'memory effect' and he stared back at me as if I gave him a tough physics equation to tackle. When the range extender came on I remarked that I heard it turn on and he said that was something else because you can't hear the engine. I have driven many volts, GM did do a good job to mute the engine noise, but you can hear it if you are paying attention. Once we got back at the dealership I was quickly shuffled to his desk and asked to fill out a form that included all my personal information. He didn't even offer to find answers to the questions he didn't know. I rejected the form and said I'd like to first talk price and availability. That's when it got interesting. I was told the Volts were selling at sticker price without the option to negotiate and that there were only a few in the area that they could trade for. However they did have other comparable models there that they could 'put me in' for much less and I could drive off the lot in it today. I thanked him for his time and left. I never imagined it would be so hard to buy a car. I visited two other Chevy dealerships to see how I was treated. One was very accommodating and seemed like they would definitely do what they could to get me the Volt I wanted. The other was close to the experience I described above. they had  little interest in helping me, and basically told me a Cruze is a much better choice(not in so many words though). The real problem is I've heard about issues like this from quite a few others. There are some dealers selling a lot of Volts and really are enthusiastic about them, while others in the same area, with the same demographics sell little to none. Why is that? Is it all training? Does it go deeper? Is it a continuation of the political stance some people have on electric cars, that they are a bad idea forced down our throats by an administration that wants to tell you what is good for you? I'm not sure, but it does seem some dealerships are OK with allowing their client advisers to 'advise' their customers look at other models.

Here's an amazing story. Mike Kelly is a Republican Congressman in Pennsylvania. He also owns a Chevy dealership(that was handed to him by his father). He refuses to sell Volts. In fact he fired an employee that works for him because he ordered one from Chevy because he was told by GM that the dealership had to stock at least one Volt. When Mr Kelly found out that he ordered the car he fired him because he refuses to stock or sell Volts, even if a customer comes in and wants one! C'mon, how does Chevy expect sell Volts if this is going on? I am actually surprised the Volt is selling as well as it is since it's under constant assault from much of the media and even has to endure friendly fire from some Chevy dealers. Read about it here.

Alysha Webb recently wrote on Plugincars.com "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" There are a lot of very experienced electric car owners and advocates out there, how about enlisting some of us to be part of the solution? Whatever the formula, something need to be done to get the manufacturers, the marketing departments and the dealers on the same page and supporting their plug-in offerings. I haven't seen anybody even come close to doing it right so far. Will BMW? I don't really know. I'd like to think they are smart enough to see what has been going on and realize they need to do better. When they launch the i brand next year they have an opportunity to be the first major OEM to really do it right. They can seize the public's interest (there is interest in plug-in cars) in these cars, help the consumer understand the differences, the advantages and the shortcomings of these cars. The key is to have the information accessible, and have a sales force ready to respond to the challenges unique to living with a plug in car. Most people don't know what BEV, PHEV, PEV, EREV, REx and HEV even mean, let alone the differences, and that's just the start. Where can I plug in? How much does it cost in electricity? What do I do if I run out? How will the weather effect the range? Can I charge if it's raining? How about snowing? These are the simple questions that everybody asks and there are a lot more, but surprisingly even these softballs can't be properly answered by some Chevy and Nissan salesmen. Preparing the client advisers, giving them the tools to instill confidence in their clients is paramount. If the prospective customer isn't 100% sure their adviser knows what they are talking about and can help them with every issue they may face then they aren't going to feel comfortable buying a plug-in car. It takes a leap of faith to buy your first plug in car and the customer needs to be nurtured a bit so they feel they are making the right decision.

Still surprised plug in sales haven't lived up to the hype? I don't know why you would be. Somebody, at some point is going to figure this out. Hopefully sooner than later.

22 comments:

  1. Excellent post tom. You really hit the nail on the head. Chevy has recently done better with their TV ads though. They are now using existing Volt owners to talk about why they like their Volt. It's much better than the aliens LOL

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  2. Really good post, this is the right perspective!

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  3. One of your better posts! You need to send the link to GM, Ford & Nissan!

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  4. Another good one Tom. I'm waiting to buy my first EV, I just don't like what's available so far. I might have to wait for Tesla's 3rd car which is supposed to be around $30,000 and have a 150 mile range.

    I really would like about 125 miles or range but 100 miles is the minimum I'll accept. By that I mean the official test results rating not the manufacturers claim!

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  5. Thanks guys. I have been thinking about his post for a long time now. It really seems like the auto manufacturers are confused about how to deal with EV's. I hate to sound so condescending because these huge powerful companies have been successful at making, marketing and selling cars for a long time now, but it just seems like everyone is floundering without focus. The public has questions and concerns about these cars, nobody is really addressing them IMHO.

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  6. Yes, a great article, Tom (if a little discouraging)! I was especially dismayed to hear of the bad dealer behavior--probably why Tesla has elected to bypass the dealer model with its factory stores, and why BMW is reportedly planning to also sell its electrics via the internet (again, with "i" stores). Hopefully both will get around onerous state franchise laws.

    I agree that the current selection of BEVs is lacking. The Leaf is uninspiring, and the Mitsubishi i has good enough range for my purposes, but being so narrow and with small wheels, not likely to respond well to being thrown through the curves. The Honda FIt-sized i3 promises to be light, nimble, and utilitarian for commuting, taking to the grocery store and Home Depot, and also fun to drive and attractive. The Model S is very different--a big four-door sedan, almost 2000 pounds heavier than the i3, and almost four feet longer--too big for my purposes (perfect for others), but I'm also waiting for Tesla's 3rd generation cars--smaller and more affordable. I have no doubts that Tesla will succeed as a manufacturer; Elon Musk has brought together a great management/engineering team. He did the same thing at SpaceX and put a spacecraft in orbit (we'll see how Sunday's launch goes).

    So I'm confident there will be good BEV choices in a couple of years. Hopefully the dealer issue will resolve itself--either by reforming or being supplanted by new sales channels.

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  7. Very good read. I certainly agree we haven't had a great mix of electric cars just yet. I really don't like how the leaf looks and I'm not sure it would work well here in Michigan. I expect sales to gradually increase once there are more options with longer ranges that look better. I too am confident there will an increase in sales once the products improve. The marketing will get better and the dealers that do a bad job training their staff to sell them will suffer.

    What really shocked me was the story on Congressman Kelly. I hope his constituency realizes how his actions hurt them. Transitioning to electric cars will not only help clean the air they breathe, but it will also create local jobs. It's really sad he doesn't see that.

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  8. Tom, your observations are spot on. But EVs are currently a disruption to a typical car salesman's mental capacity. Chevrolet dealers sell trucks, Aveos, Impalas, trucks, vans, etc..... a $40k compact sedan run by electricity, or sometimes gas? NO! It's a PITA to many sales personnel.

    I have a Volt, bought from a dealer who didn't know how to sell it. I know how they can be sold, and I'm thinking of asking the sales manager if he'd let me run a few seminars on how to sell the Volt. Call it grassroots involvement, that's how America became what it is...

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  9. Good analysis, and in-depth. A couple of random comments:

    -- The LEAF isn't the only ugly Nissan car. In fact, I find the majority of Nissan's designs to be excessively bulbous, eggy, catfishy, etc. But people still seem to be buying them.

    -- After more than 3 years of following EVs, advocating for them - yes, from a "green" perspective in particular ;-) -- but never having owned one, and only having driven two for about 10 minutes each (a LEAF and a Volt), I've come to the sobering conclusion that no matter how much EV owners say they're a better car, drive better, feel better, etc., 99% of people aren't going to see it that way. Why? It all comes down to range -- at least for pure EVs. The average consumer doesn't want to pay more money for a vehicle that's not going to get them as far. It's kind of like trying to sell a new iPad, laptop, etc. with batteries that burn out three times as quickly as the older version. Even if the newer iPad is superior on all fronts, except for its battery "range", it's going to seem like a step backward for pretty much everyone.

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  10. Nicely written, Tom. I agree that marketing these incredible cars has been very hit-and-miss (owner testimonials: good, guy in a bathrobe and aliens: not good), and that more traditional sales pitches would work better.

    I've owned my 2011 Volt since March, 2011. I ordered it sight unseen in the second half of 2010 from my local Chevy dealer. While one person I talked with there was rather clueless on the car, one of the owners certainly wasn't, and my salesperson, Bill, gave a very detailed introduction to me at delivery (even though I knew plenty about the car from gm-volt.com). I was not able to use an employee discount on the Volt through my dad, but they did not charge over MSRP for the car, which I was fine with, given the very limited availability at the time.

    The Volt is an amazing car. It gives me the freedom to use not one, but two power sources. I only buy gas when I go out of town to visit relatives and friends every few months, otherwise I only "burn" electrons. And the quietness of electric drive is bliss - so glad I don't have to "disable" a silly artificial noise-maker when I drive my Volt!

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  11. Kind of stale examples of Chevy Volt dealership experiences-last year?

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  12. Very well done. It's about time someone said this. Between the lies in the press and the inexperience of the people selling them you are right, it's a wonder that the Volt is selling nearly 3,000 per month now - go Volt! Shouldn't sales people have to actually know facts about the cars they sell? The should have to pass a test or something. The Volt is more complicated than the other cars they sell and it seems like they are too lazy to read about it and understand it so they just don't push it.

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  13. There are some good thoughts here - I have a 2013 Volt, and follow the GM-Volt.com forums, which is where I found this article. One point noted over there is that Chevy does have "authorized" Volt dealerships and sales specialists - who have been specifically trained on the Volt. It is possible that some dealers have a Volt for sale who do not have this training, and as a result are not able to provide accurate information.

    One note on the Tesla: the problem for a start-up auto manufacturer is that they need a wide support network. At this time, Tesla is in operation in certain coastal and other large cities, as seen here: http://www.teslamotors.com/locations But if you want a Tesla anywhere else, you have to buy it from one of these locations and take it back home. Then, if you have problems, Tesla has to send a 'Ranger' to you at the cost of $1/mile each way - plus any support costs (depending on your warranty/support package). You can buy a support package with 'Ranger miles' built-in, but the cheapest package on the Tesla site is $2,000.

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  14. Hello Tom,

    Another great post and I enjoyed it very much. I can usually tell how passionately you feel about the topic by how long your post is! You know I have offered my opinion to you about this before - on an email about a year ago if you remember- and I still feel the same way. You should be working in this industry; I believe you would be a huge asset to a company like Nissan and I can't figure out why you aren't. Perhaps you just love the life of being a restauranteur!

    Warm wishes from up North!
    Bill

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  15. Christof: I know there are hurdles, but I do disagree that such a high percentage of people can't be swayed to buy an EV. Yes, I know you have covered, researched and studied the EV industry for the past three years, you and I have spent a lot of time messaging back and forth! However the one thing you don't have is actual experience with an EV. Not a test drive, but weeks, months and years living with one. I come across so many people in my daily life with the car that stop me and ask questions, lots of questions. There are dozens of people that I know that are ready and willing to buy an EV once one comes out that they like because they have watched me live perfectly fine with a ~100 mile EV for nearly four years now. These people needed to see someone like me, a 'normal guy' live with an EV for a while to realize that it would probably work fine for them also and now they want an EV, but just don't like the current offerings. It will take a while, the adoption will be slow, but people WILL realize they don't need 400 miles and a 5 minute recharge like they THINK they need. The early adopters like myself must play a role in educating the public and thankfully many are.

    High Flyer: Inexperienced and uninformed sales people have always been a problem with the auto industry. However I think it's MUCH more prevalent with the EV's because they are so different and the customers have different needs and concerns. If the dealer can't satisfy the EV customers special concerns then there is no hope they'll sell the cars to anyone but the most hardened EV supporters. Many of those kind of buyers have already ran out and bought the first EV available, not it gets harder because the customers coming to the dealers need more 'convincing' than the initial wave of purchasers may have needed.

    Bill: Than you! Yes, I remember you email, I still had the MINI-E back then and you also asked me about the thermal management in the winter months. I appreciate the vote of confidence. Yes, I do enjoy owing the restaurant. It's good to be your own boss ;) That being said, as passionate as I am about the EV industry if the right situation came up I think I'd have to give it some thought.

    Thanks for the comments everyone!

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  16. And you did not even mention Mitsubishi dealership's attitude. The "certified" Bred Benson Dealership in North Brunswick does not have installed L2 charging stations. When I brought my iMiEV for a recall repair, they were looking at me as if I were an alien and although the car was dropped off for the whole day, they did not plug it into regular outlet. I actually disagree with that the car has limited utility, I love it and it is reliable but unfortunately, US consumers are looking for big fat strong cars. This vehicle was designed by Japanese for Japanese, plus Europeans like it, too.

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  17. However, I bought my iMiEV at Bell Mitsubishi in Rahway and I have had a good experience. They have 24/7 available charging station outside and it is conveniently on Route-1 South. The manager was very excited about their EVs and seem to know what they are selling.
    Back to your anger, I am also sometimes depressed and lonely. People are excited about the EV technology but they tend to say "I will wait for the next generation..." so they don't buy EVs. When it comes to PV on the roof, I have explained the benefits to so many people and they may say it is a great idea but they don't install it. Even if I tell them they can install solar for free, they find excuses. Your contribution is enlightening to me, because I was not thinking of the dealer's failure.
    Tom, I think we have to be patient and persistent.
    Thanks, Stan (Somerset, NJ)

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  18. Tom, as to give you more credit, I am still thinking about your article. When I bought my iMiEV, I knew it is not going to be perfect but I really wanted to cast my vote to support the trend. Manufacturers are taking huge risks in throwing big buck into development and production of EVs and they are uncertain of what the consumer wants, who are the potential consumers, what may allienate current consumers etc. It is easy to find imperfections in the current fleet but in my opinion, this should not be the excuse why people are still waiting for "the next generation" EV. Because if people don't buy what is on sale now, there will be no "next generation". And this is why I bought iMiEV and despite so many curses from both ICE lovers and EV lovers, I am proud of it. Yes, I am different kind of EV driver but we all know that EV powertrain IS the future and we should also agree that USA must be the leader, not the follower.

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  19. Thank you Stanislav. I appreciate your comments. Feedback is really what drives me to continue posing on my blogs. I certainly agree with you. Today's EV's can be great personal vehicles, but they are still just the very beginning of what we will see. They still have a ways to go to offer the same utility as a gas car for the same price, but we WILL get there as long as people like you and me continue to support EV's now. If nobody buys them, then they will go away and we won't get to the point where they are better than gas cars in every way, including range, price and possibly even refueling time.
    Best wishes,
    Tom

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  20. Hi Tom, loved reading your passionate (and long) piece. I was part of the Active E beta test, but totaled it in a serious accident with only 2,000 miles. BMW tried, but could not offer me another Active E as all were already handed out. Initially I planned to wait for the i3, but I truly missed the EV driving experience. As you mentioned, once you have experienced the instant torque, seamless acceleration and quiet ride, it is hard to go back to gas.
    Eventually I decided on a 2012 Volt after our company arranged an EV demo day. I did not even bother to test drive the LEAF and Coda as their design and overall package did not appeal to me. However, the Volt was a revelation. In Sport mode and 'L- gear' you almost get the same ride as the Active E, except that regenerative braking is not as strong (too bad).
    It might be California, but both the dealer present at this demo day as well as my home town Chevy dealer were very well informed and eager to sell the Chevy. My dealer indeed has 1 specially trained sales manager that knows the Volt well and knows how to sell it. They both had a 5-10 Chevy Volt inventory It certainly helped that Chevy put out some aggressive lease options, making it an easier sale. They also told me that they personally sold 10's of Chevy Volt each week in that June-Aug period. They were actually surprised by the strong demand for this $35-40k car and the easy sell once they were trained properly. He told me that Chevy Volt buyers have 'many questions' and good product training helped him to sell the car and put new buyers at ease.
    In my case it seems that a combination of a "Chevy Volt Champion' at the Chevy dealership and strong (financial) incentives for both buyer and sales person worked out well for me (happy customer) and Chevy Sale person (high sales of $30-40K cars).
    I truly enjoy my Chevy Volt, but will certainly test drive the i3 when it comes out end of 2013.

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  21. Amazing how simple it can be to communicate with people and have them understand a certain topic, you made my day.

    Manufacturer Spline Hobs

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  22. Geez! I only came across this now from your post about your i3 "side job".

    Yowza. As a Leaf lessee, dealers and auto show reps were citing that "100 mile" range crap and bet some still do :(, which is a horrible number to tell ICEV drivers who know little or nothing about BEVs. Luckily, I needed little in the way of help/info on Leafs from my dealer (who does apparently sell/lease MANY Leafs).

    As for the Volt experiences, that's really sad. As for the FFE, I'm not surprised. This seems to go hand-in-hand with way sales are still puny and I see VERY few on the road, even here in Nor Cal. There's a whopping 1 FFE at my work (and a whopping 1 Spark EV). The plug-in vehicles at my work are dominated by Leafs w/Volts being #2.


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