America’s franchised dealer network is often portrayed as a pinch point to widespread electric vehicle adoption. But with a few relatively minor tweaks, it could become more of an asset and express lane for EV makers and a market shift.
That starts with how dealerships introduce people to the idea of EVs. Just as a salesperson wouldn’t dive into engineering-school thermodynamics in trying to sell a V-8 muscle car, EV shoppers don’t need a deep-dive or a TED Talk to start talking about EVs in the showroom. What about starting with a simple idea: electricity as a fuel—a fuel they can add at home or out on the road?
That’s the idea Chargeway has championed since 2017—with color- and number-coded circles that quickly show shoppers and owners on a vehicle-specific basis where they can charge and how quickly they can charge—comparing it to a gasoline vehicle experience. More recently, Chargeway has added Showroom Beacon kiosks at some dealerships’ physical showrooms, with an interactive touchscreen that walks through the vitals for EVs sold at that specific dealership—plus the things that salespeople often miss, like purchase incentives, tax credits, and utility credits, with a cost-crunch for what it costs to drive electric versus with gasoline.
Chargeway electric car charging symbols (2021)
With a new partnership with the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA), Chargeway is making its interface available to the nearly 16,500 franchised new vehicle dealerships represented by the organization. That’s possible not with thousands of those physical kiosks (quite yet) with a Chargeway Web Beacon plugin offered for the most common web platforms that power dealer sites: Dealer.com, Dealer On, Dealer Inspire, DealerFire, and Sincro.
The new functionality could potentially apply both to new and used EVs. It will allow consumers to explore the charging abilities and limitations of each vehicle as they shop—including how home charging works and how temperature and speed can affect an EV road trip—and it would be integrated not just with dealer sites but with tablets used by dealership staff.
Chargeway Web Beacon
Perhaps most importantly, the partnership will help make charging the same conversation across models, brands, and dealership groups.
The hope is to follow up on success noted in a pilot program of Chargeway with the Oregon Auto Dealers Association (OADA), Portland General Electric (PGE) and Pacific Power, indicating that showrooms with the touchscreen kiosk saw EV sales surge versus comparable showrooms without them.
“Closing the consumer education gap between early EV adopters and the next generation of mainstream EV buyers is critical to achieving our shared goal of getting millions more EVs on the road,” said NADA president and CEO Mike Stanton, in a release, outlining that the organization looked at a number of training tools and apps, finding that Chargeway best answered dealers’ questions.
Chargeway electric-car charging schematic
The clash in messaging and terminology is an issue today—for everyone but Tesla, which created its own charging ecosystem—as customers struggle to understand the difference between CHAdeMO and CCS, and juggle claimed peak-charging numbers in kilowatts for their vehicles with the numbers they see on charging hardware. With dealers now on board with the simplified nomenclature, it’s likely something that would benefit OEMs as well.
“With Chargeway, understanding how to charge every make and model EV is easier, which helps every dealership cut through the educational barrier and focus on selling the features of their unique cars,” said Chargeway founder Matt Teske. “That is what OEMs want, it's what customers expect, and it's what dealerships do.”
Volvo XC40 Recharge - Volvo Cars Gilbert, Gilbert AZ [photo from Chargeway]
There’s a greater urgency to get salespeople up to speed, as brands get more EVs in their lineups that are intended to sell in more than a token few. Among many examples, Volkswagen sees its EVs competing with gasoline models, and Cadillac is shifting to a fully electric lineup by the end of the decade. Consistency as a customer cross-shops is the keyword here, and it’s what’s sorely lacking today. A little less propriety about tech but a common language could go a long way.