2016 BMW i3
A major challenge for electric-car advocates is finding enthusiastic dealers who are willing to put in the effort to explain and promote them.
Given the need to educate different staff on a new type of vehicle, explain the associated incentives, and respond to numerous customer questions, electric cars require dealers to invest more time than their internal-combustion counterparts.
Time is money, and many dealers simply aren't interested in undertaking this more involved process when they can push conventional cars already in stock.
Nor is the ongoing war in several states between franchised dealers and Tesla Motors over the carmaker's direct-sales model helping matters.
Nonetheless, the owner of one of the largest dealer networks in New England is excited about electric cars.
Herb Chambers currently controls 57 dealership locations in the Boston area, encompassing the majority of brands currently available in the U.S.
2017 Nissan Leaf
Electric cars are "going to be very popular," Chambers declared in a recent interview with Boston.com.
"I've been to meetings in both Germany and Japan, and you're going to see a tremendous push" on electric cars over the next few years, Chambers said.
He expects prices of new electric cars to decrease and range to increase, two things sure to help increase sales.
Chambers' dealerships sell multiple electric-car models—but not luxury Tesla electric cars, which are sold online and shown at company-owned retail stores.
The dealer mogul does not consider Tesla to be significant competition in cars—electric or otherwise.
He said that Tesla does not sell a significant number of cars in Massachusetts, although the automaker is explicitly allowed to sell cars directly to customers there.
2016 Tesla Model S
Tesla presently has five retail stores in Massachusetts, and one service center.
Chambers also said he had driven a Tesla and "wasn't particularly impressed," claiming it was "overpriced" against models from BMW, Lexus, and Mercedes-Benz.
Electric cars have been slower to gain market share in the Northeast, due to a combination of more frequent cold weather—which cuts battery range—and a provision in the California zero-emission vehicle requirements that means a car sold in California meets ZEV sales requirements in several Northeast states as well.
A franchised dealer enthusiastic about electric cars and willing to compete against Tesla on the merits, rather than cry foul over its direct-sales model, remains something of a rarity.
And it will be crucial for many more dealers to learn about, get enthusiastic about, and commit to selling plug-in electric cars in general.
Because even if legacy automakers build more electric cars in different models, franchised dealers are the only entities legally permitted to sell them.