Bourgeois Chevrolet, Rawdon, Quebec, Canada [photo: RoulezElectrique.com]
Can any other franchised dealer in the world make the claim that full one-third of its sales are a single model of plug-in electric car?
Bourgeois Chevrolet of Rawdon, Quebec, achieved that remarkable level in its sales this year of the Chevrolet Volt range-extended electric car.
Now the dealership has been honored for its accomplishment.
At Canada's recent 2014 Electric Vehicle Conference, advocacy group Plug'n Drive and the Canadian Electricity Association jointly awarded Canada's first annual Electric Vehicle Dealership Awards.
2014 Chevrolet Volt
The organizers split the awards, for outstanding achievement by car dealers in selling electric vehicles, into three categories. They were:
- Leading Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) Dealership Award
- Leading Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV) Dealership Award
- Electric Vehicle Dealership Inspiration Award (for dealerships in provinces without incentives)
PHEV winner: 35 percent
Winning the award was a fine way for Bourgeois Chevrolet to cap its 50th year in business.
Last year, having invested the time to train its entire staff to sell the Volt, the dealership saw the plug-in grow to represent fully 14 percent of its sales.
The range-extended electric Volt and the battery-electric Chevy Spark EV are the only cars shown on the main page of the dealer's website, in fact.
Canada's 2014 Electric Vehicle Conference - dealership awards
And its salespeople reached that number despite co-owner Samuel Jeanson's continuing struggle to secure inventory--along with his off-the-cuff estimate that it took salespeople about five times longer to sell a Volt than a regular vehicle.
(This can be viewed as a positive development, actually. It means that Quebec's Volt buyers are no longer highly-informed "early adopters," but are now part of the much, much larger "early majority" market of consumers.)
Adding used to new
Unable to secure enough new Volts from GM, this year Bourgeois Chevrolet began importing used ones from the United States.
Lots of them.
2013 Chevrolet Volt, Catskill Mountains, Oct 2012
Enough, in fact, to keep about 50 Volts of various colors and configurations on the lot at any given time--which is how the Chevy Volt has come to represent a full 35 percent of the dealership's year-to-date sales.
Because that 35-percent figure includes cheaper used vehicles, it might not be reachable if looking solely at new-car sales. But we may never be able to test that thesis, given the difficulty the dealership has had getting and keeping new Volts in stock.
In a statement, award judges noted that Bourgeois Chevrolet "believes electric vehicles are not only a product but a lifestyle to be shared with people in the community."
"The number of electric vehicles sold annually, in addition to the training sessions completed by technicians and representatives," organizers said, "enable the family-owned company to stand out from its competitors."
2013 Chevrolet Volt - Driven, December 2012
"It lends electric cars out for extended test drives of a few days to allow people to monitor their gas consumption, and the dealership has 21 recharging stations around the facility for use by their clients, the local community, and employees."
Other award winners
The winners of the Battery-Electric Vehicle Award and Dealership Inspiration Award represent similarly impressive achievements.
The BEV Dealership Award went to Park Avenue Nissan in Brossard, Quebec (on the outskirts of Montreal) for its commitment to educating the public about environmental lifestyles and options--and that means not just the Leaf.
Canada's 2014 Electric Vehicle Conference - dealership awards
That model represented 4 percent of their sales in 2013, or about 10 times the average proportion of Leaf sales across the country.
The Dealership Incentive Award went to Loch Lomond Mitsubishi of Saint John, New Brunswick, for sterling efforts in a much tougher province with no plug-in car purchase incentives at all.
Loch Lomond uses an i-MiEV electric minicar as a customer shuttle, and dedicates one-fifth of its marketing budget to promoting electric vehicles.
2014 Mitsubishi i-MiEV
Hopefully its efforts will prove even more fruitful once the Mitsubishi Outlander Plug-In Hybrid arrives on North American soil. The dealerships certainly seems to have done the spadework to deserve it.
"Glass half-full" approach
Cara Clairman, President and CEO of Plug'n Drive, noted that one goal of the awards program was to build something positive that electric-car advocates could rally around in a country lacking federal incentives, policy support, or interest in plug-in vehicles.
We might call it the "glass-half-full" approach.
ALSO SEE: Grading Canada's Progress In Plug-In Electric Cars So Far (Nov 2013)
Dealerships were judged on five criteria, with electric-vehicle sales having a 50-percent weighting. While offering a well-rounded basis for scoring, this resulted in a nomination guide that ran 14 pages, with a six-page application form.
This may have been prohibitively time-consuming for most car dealers, if the awards were just being given out by a small advocacy group.
2014 BMW i3 in Vancouver, Canada [photo: Don Chandler]
In that light, the organizers' recruitment of the staid Canadian Electric Association as co-presenters helped underscore the seriousness of the event.
They also convinced the Canadian Automobile Association to become a major sponsor.
Forecasting future awards
Quebec dealerships seem likely to retain the PHEV and BEV category next year, given their strong weighting on absolute sales. Quebec represents about half the Canadian plug-in market thus far.
The province shows no sign of losing its leadership, either; a representative of the province's public-sector utility, Hydro-Quebec, confidently told conference attendees that it could integrate up to a million electric vehicles without substantial infrastructure investment. (One can do these things, when one is a major exporter of electricity.)
Given that BMW has made a major, concerted effort to market the i3 in Canada, one of its dealers may be able to snag an award next year.
And with the Smart Electric Drive currently outselling the Leaf in Canada in August, some of its dealers should make a strong showing too.