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Electric revolution: a fifth of car dealers claim they will never sell EVs

A plug-in electric vehicle (EV) on charge

Electric vehicles (EV) look set to reshape the UK’s car retail sector in the years ahead, with a fifth of dealers telling Auto Trader that they will never sell purely battery-powered zero-emission vehicles.

Research findings shared in the automotive marketplace’s latest update to its Road to 2030 report laid bare a growing gulf between consumer sentiment towards the shift to EVs and many retailers preparedness and willingness to embrace change.

Over half of retailers (51.6%) surveyed by Auto Trader said they felt unprepared and not strategically ready to respond to this surging demand, with 20% of franchised retailers making the statement, compared to 59.9% of independent retailers. 

And while over half of retailers (50.4%) surveyed said they had never sold an EV, 22% said that they never would.

Despite a surge in EV product from OEMs, one fifth of both franchise (20%) and independent (23.2%) retailers said they never intended to sell EVs.

Auto Trader brand director Marc Palmer and Cap HPI head of forecast strategy Dylan Setterfield  on the AM News Show'Massive opportunity'

Auto Trader brand director Marc Palmer, who discussed the shift to EVs in the used sector in a recent episode of the AM News Show Podcast, said that retailers need to gear-up to sell EVs soon or face missing out on a “massive opportunity”.

He said retailers need to start to think about they will sell EVs and how they will arm themselves with the right information and, crucially, the right training, adding: “It’s likely that the earliest interactions many retailers will have with EVs is at used car auctions.

“Auction lists will soon start to fill up with used EVs and retailers won’t be able to rely on instinct and experience as they have in the past with used ICE vehicles. 

“They’ll need to take a data-led approach to buying used EVs, including what to bid for and how much to bid, to ensure their stock offering evolves with consumer and environmental demands.

“EVs aren’t to be feared, and they certainly shouldn’t be ignored as very soon they will become a meaningful part of a retailer's’ forecourt.”  

Palmer was among sector experts who told AM that battery health of electric vehicles (EV) “must” join age and mileage as a key used car valuation metric in the years ahead.

Cap HPI director of valuations Derren Martin said that legislation might be required to compel OEMs to share the data, however.

Auto Trader’s Road to Zero report said that nine million EVs will be on UK roads by 2030, making up half of all three-to-five-year-old car parc.

Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) H1 new car registrations data showed sales of new EVs in the first half of 2022 grew 56% year-on-year, and now account for around one-in-seven of all new car sales in the UK. 

One-in-four new car leads generated by Auto Trader are now for an EV, while used EV searches have increased 51% year-on-year in Q2.

Prepare for change

But Auto Trader’s research revealed that many retailers remain unprepared for the change.

One in three retailers (32.7%) surveyed said that they need considerable training on how to sell EVs, whilst 70% rated themselves average or below at selling EVs.

Embracing change: EV specialist Drive Green, near Bristol Of those respondents that had already sold an EV, just over a third (37.8%) have had electric chargers fitted at their dealership.

And there seems no rush to focus on EVs in the near future, as 45.2% believe 2030 will be the tipping point when all retailers need to have an EV strategy.

Among independent retailers, 48.6% believing 2030 is the tipping point, compared to less than a third (30%) of franchise retailers.

EV-themed magazine features in the latest edition of AM magazine cast light on many of the considerations that need to be addressed to become an EV retailer.

To access Auto Trader’s latest Road to 2030 Report, visit

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