Are electric cars appliances? They plug in, use electricity and certainly have more computers in them than most consumers have in their entire home.  But should they be sold in conventional car dealerships or somewhere else?

Japanese retail chain Yamada Denki has tried to answer both questions, by selling the 2011 Mitsubish i-Miev in select versions of its stores throughout Japan. The all-electric Mitsubishi i-Miev is the ancestral precursor to the 2012 Mitsubishi i. 

Japan’s Biggest Electronics Retailer

Yamada Denki is a Japan’s largest consumer electronics retailer.  In 2005 it became the first Japanese specialist store to record consolidated sales in excess of 1 trillion yen. 

It is the Japanese equivalent of Best Buy. 

Mitsubishi has already proven the car’s popularity too, with over 3,000 i-Mievs sold since July 2009.

Widescreen TVs, Laptops, Electric Cars

Let’s face it: electric cars represent the cutting edge of automotive technology today. With more computing power than most consumer laptops and a plug-and-charge mentality for running them, electric cars seem the ultimate consumer gadget. 

Mitsubishi MiEV - Best Buy Geek Squad

Mitsubishi MiEV - Best Buy Geek Squad

The idea isn’t knew. Select Best Buy stores now stock a range of electric bicycles, scooters and motorbikes, including the 2010 Brammo Empulse and Enertia. It also has several Mitsubishi i-Miev fleet cars as part of its "geek squad'.

Geeks Get EVs

It’s no secret that geeks and gadget-heads are often interested in electric cars. What’s more, those with the disposable income to keep their home technology up-to-date are more likely to be able to afford an electric car. 

But geeks are also not the demographic best known for their ability to go car-hunting. The solution? Put cars where gadget fans go. 

More Than Just a Display

But Yamada Denki won’t just be showcasing the car. The 17 selected stores in the Tokyo metropolitan area will each have a full-time car sales team on hand to answer customer questions and ensure that the very highest level of service is given. 

In addition, the stores will sell and install any required charging equipment as well as home solar photovoltaic packages to help i-Miev owners run their cars on renewable energy. 

Simple Maintenance, Low Space Requirement

Mitsubishi MiEV - Best Buy Geek Squad

Mitsubishi MiEV - Best Buy Geek Squad

The ultimate factor to enable electric vehicle sales in a non car-dealership setting is reduced servicing requirements that electric cars need compared to gasoline cars. 

With no oil-changes and a service schedule requiring little more than a safety check and tire rotation, electric cars can be serviced and sold almost anywhere. 

The End of the Dealership?

As more and more electronics retailers branch out into electric vehicles, are we witnessing the beginning of the end for traditional out-of-town car dealerships? 

No. For now they are safe, if only because of the large number of gasoline powered cars still being made and driven. They still require regular servicing.

Servicing and parts are the two things that keep out-of-town dealerships in business. But as more and more electric cars and alternative fuelled vehicles hit the roads of the U.S. the dealerships will have two choices: change or die. 

We can’t wait to see how it plays out.