If you were in the market for a new car then you might find yourself visiting your local dealership to get a test-drive and grill the salesperson about fuel economy, specifications and financing.
But it turns out that in the case of electric cars it’s not the dealers which make the most impact on future buyers: it’s other electric car owners.
In a world where electric cars currently represent less than one half of one percent of all cars sold in any given month, most sales people - even in dealerships where electric cars are being sold - have less experience of electric cars than some early adopters.
2011 Nissan Leaf UK Launch
It’s a fact not missed by the auto industry either.
“Collectively we can spend hundreds of millions of dollars, but at the end of the day it will be friends, neighbors, shared experiences, seeing vehicles on the road, seeing cars in a grocery store parking lot, seeing access to public charging that will stimulate sales,” said Mark Perry, director of product planning and strategy for Nissan North America at a Detroit conference earlier this week.
Perry has a point. Much like early adopters of other technology such as cellphones, home cinema and computers, electric car early adopters are well-informed about the technology, may even have past experience, and are more than willing to encourage others to adopt electric cars.
2011 Nissan Leaf and 2011 Chevy Volt, with charging station visible; photo by George Parrott
And unlike salespeople at a car dealer, a friend, colleague or neighbor doesn’t usually have a financial incentive to encourage you to buy whatever it is they’re telling you about.
However, there is a caveat.
Personal experiences are just that - personal experiences.
[Automotive News (Subscription required]