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Auto Dealers See Consumers’ EV Enthusiasm Lose Its Spark

At auto dealerships around the country, electric cars have reportedly become a hard sell.

Consumers are worried about the price, range and reliability of these vehicles, The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday (Dec. 10), citing interviews with dealers.

Among them is Paul LaRochelle, a vice president at Sheehy Auto Stores in the Washington, D.C., area, who said he was initially excited when Ford announced plans for an electric pickup truck.

“We thought we could build a million of them and sell them,” said LaRochelle.

In reality, Sheehy has a six month to one-year supply of electric vehicles (EVs), versus a month’s supply of gas-powered cars.

As the WSJ noted, automakers are set to roll out a wave of EVs in the years ahead, leading to concerns among sellers about whether customers are ready to switch over. 

EV sales have slowed this year, the report said, in spite of a combination of discounts and lower-interest deals from car companies.

“I’m not hearing the consumer confidence in the technology,” Mary Rice, dealer principal at Toyota of Greensboro in North Carolina, told the WSJ. “People aren’t beating down the door to buy these things, and they all have a different excuse why they aren’t buying one.”

According to the WSJ, dealers say their customers point to worries about EVs exhausting their battery charge faster in cold weather or not being able to journey as far as they expected on a single charge. 

And as PYMNTS Karen Webster wrote last week, this consumer unease is “made more real when considering that there are only 160,000 charging stations in the U.S. right now — and even fewer supercharging stations that provide a top up in 30 minutes.”

Most take three to four hours to provide a full charge. And while the Biden administration has said it will pay to develop 500,000 stations, that still falls short of the 700,000 that would be needed in a scenario in which 40% of America’s cars were EVs.

“The problem facing the EV ecosystem today is there were not enough early adopters to create sufficient demand for suppliers of charging stations, so the U.S. lacks the density of fast charging stations that later adopters of EVs would require to give up gas,” Webster wrote.

“And investors in EVs may have underestimated the importance of that and overestimated the willingness of consumers to overlook battery anxiety based on the enthusiasm of those early adopters.”