It's often said that one of the bigger impediments to sales of electric cars is car dealerships.
Among plug-in car shoppers, stories abound of salespeople who know little or nothing about electric vehicles, misrepresent their abilities, and aggressively steer shoppers away from them toward gasoline alternatives.
Rarely, however, is this kind of behavior documented for the world to see.
Which leads us to the case of the buyer who contacted Kia of Vancouver in British Columbia, Canada, to ask about the Kia Soul EV.
As covered last week by InsideEVs, an Internet sales manager at the dealership, Phil Curtin, responded with a remarkable letter explaining why the buyer shouldn't be interested in the Soul EV--or indeed in any electric car.
Thank you for your interest in the Soul EV.
Are you interested because you think an EV will save you money, or because you believe it will be good for the environment? Because realistically, it will do neither. The Carbon footprint of making the electric battery is equivalent to driving the gas powered luxury Soul for 5 years, and the extra 8-10000 $ you will pay for an EV, would pay for gas in a 2.0 l GDI four cylinder for 7 years.
So again, whatever your buying motivation, savings or environment, at this point in time, the EV is a social / political statement and is good neither for your pocketbook, nor the environment.
The startled buyer posted the letter online, and a small firestorm ensued.
In due course, that led to a sort-of-apology from Jason Wong, saying Curtin's e-mail was "not a good sounding tone" [sic].
2015 Kia Soul EV First Drive - Portland - November 2014
Wong then reiterated the point that a conventional Soul tops out at roughly C$30,000, while the Soul EV is priced at C$40,000.
He did note, however, that the provincial government had just reinstated its Clean Energy Vehicle incentive program (which will take effect April 1).
The Kia Soul EV will then be eligible for a point-of-purchase rebate of up to C$5,000 (US $4,000).
Wong then criticized electric cars, using talking points about environmental issues--nickel mining and the fuel burned by ships carrying cars from other countries.
Then his note effectively shrugs, saying, "There is no point getting into this as it boils down to perspective with strong points on both ends."
2015 Kia Soul EV and 2014 Nissan Leaf, at Blink DC fast charger - Fife, WA
He went on to say
Unfortunately, the tone of my salesman was very very poor. The exact same thing could have been said in a much more appropriate manner with less of a tone of “you shouldn’t buy an EV because blah blah blah blah”.
And he ends by noting that Kia of Vancouver is not authorized to sell the Soul EV in the first place.
In other words, rather than pointing the buyer to another Kia dealer that carried the Soul EV, Curtin deprecated the buyer's reasons for wanting one, selectively chose a few facts to use in talking down the car, and sneered at electric cars as a "social/political statement" rather than practical transportation.
And then his sales manager did pretty much the same thing, in the guise of an apology.
DC fast charging 2015 Kia Soul EV
And dealerships wonder why the data shows most buyers dislike and feel taken advantage of during the car-buying experience?
While their U.S. lobbyists work to make any other alternatives (direct online sales) illegal?
[hat tip: Cody Osborne via Matthew Moreno]