Bourgeois Chevrolet, Rawdon, Quebec, Canada [photo: RoulezElectrique.com]
Plug-in electric vehicle pioneers perennially proclaim that the electric driving experience is as pleasant as the dealership experience isn't. (Tesla stores excepted, of course.)
Recently the organizers of the EV2015VE electric vehicle conference in Canada invited Quebec-based Bourgeois Chevrolet, a two-time award winner for its plug-in car sales, to share what they've learned from their success in selling relatively huge numbers of Chevy Volts.
Green Car Reports approached co-owner Samuel Jeanson, and asked him to expand on the lessons learned by the dealership in selling plug-in electric cars, and in a very cold climate at that.
The most interesting news: Bourgeois emphasized that the dealership was seeing its electric-car buyers transition from the earliest adopters to the early majority, as evidenced from their different buying approaches.
Slide from presentation by Bourgeois Chevrolet on how to sell plug-in cars successfully, May 2015
"We have seen a shift in the last months, beginning around last October," Jeanson said. "These people come in and say, 'I have heard about electric car[s], can you give me some info please?'
"The only thing they know is that the car exists, and they are open-minded about considering electrics as their next vehicle," he continued. "They know virtually nothing or they have very low knowledge overall."
Jeanson says the early-majority customers have been asking the right questions: what the electric range was, where they could charge, how much it would cost, whether they could plug in at home or at work, how long the battery would last, and so forth.
That contrasts with the early adopters, who "already had all these answers."
2013 Chevrolet Volt - Driven, December 2012
"They only wanted to touch the car, drive it, and buy it," Jeanson said. "They knew all about it because they had researched it and read about it."
"The only thing missing was the experience and the product itself. They were easy customers and 100-percent dedicated to plug-in cars."
Early adopters were also often willing to travel to dealerships stocking electric vehicles.
Bourgeois Chevrolet's experience has been that the more recent early majority want to deal with their regular dealership.
2015 Chevrolet Volt
To make sure that they are able to give electric options fair consideration, then, Jeanson said:
"Sales consultant[s] have to be ready and have the knowledge or we will lose the early majority for another cycle (5-6 years). It is critical that this doesn't happen because it will have a big repercussion on how electric cars are viewed by general public but also by the carmakers.
"This is THE test... The early majority are looking, curious, and interested--but no more. If the experience at the dealer level isn't satisfying, they will buy a conventional car ... and that's it."
Jeanson warned that helping customers give electric vehicles fair consideration can mean investing three to four times as much time with them as for a conventional vehicle sale. In business terms.