Close Brothers Motor Finance’s director of sales Sean Kemple has compiled his top five tips for car dealers looking to embark on a search for hybrid, plug-in hybrid and electric vehicle (EV) forecourt stock.
After Society of Motor Manufacturers (SMMT) new car registrations data revealed that the sales of pure, battery-powered electric vehicles were up 158.1% to 2,271 as the volume of new vehicles registered last month fell to 157,198 – the lowest July total since 2012 – the motor finance speclist is expecting an influx of alternative fuel vehicles (AFV) into the market.
Close Brothers highlighted that the first six months of this year had seen a 27.6% growth in demand for used AFVs, with 65,765 changing hands – growth which far outstrips the 13.9% rise in new AFV registrations in the same period.
“As this trickles down to the used market, dealers and drivers alike need to be prepared for market share to rise, and rise fast,” it said.
“According to our Britain Under the Bonnet report, two in five drivers (39%) are considering an electric vehicle as their next purchase, an increase of 7.5 million drivers in the past two years.”
Here are Kemple’s top tips for dealers looking to meet the rising demand for used AFVs:
- Sourcing stock – You just need to know where to look. Consumer demand is likely to be strongest in commuter belts and current congestion zones, but buyers are likely to travel from these areas for the right AFVs. This creates high levels of competition across the UK. It’s crucial that you’re proactively searching for stock, being the first mover on digital platforms and taking advantage of the small but not insignificant number of used AFVs for sale from private individuals who may welcome a trade offer.
- Know your finance options – The AFV market is developing fast, and the finance landscape has had to evolve to keep up. Debate rages on about the changing end value of cars which are still relatively new to market and who actually owns AFV batteries, but finance options are available and a good way of supporting your customer as well as your bottom line. Do your research and speak to your account manager to find out more about the landscape as it stands.
- Get your online showroom up and running – The typical electric car buyer tends to be a little younger and more tech-savvy than the general population. They’re looking online first and foremost, so if you’re not seeing walk-in demand it’s not because the demand doesn’t exist. If your online showroom isn’t up to scratch and you aren’t making a splash on social media, you’re unlikely to draw the eye of potential buyers and capture the local market.
- Be an expert – Electric cars aren’t mainstream, so people are doing even more research ahead of time, which means the questions they have for dealers are likely to be more complex. Dealers need to be the expert voice, and it’s not just a case of theoretical knowledge - have a charging point on the forecourt to guide people through the process, and put FAQs on your website and social media to make them more accessible.
- Consider partnerships – The rise of AFVs is a turning point in the history of the motor sector. Such a big change requires training and upskilling – think about how you upskill your service departments, or consider partnering with a service centre that can do this for you.
As well as offering advice to retailers looking to source AFV stock for their forecourts, Kemple has attempted to pre-empt some key consumer questions in a bid to help car dealers allay concerns about making the switch.
Here are his top five tips to help busts some myths that may exist around used AFVs:
- Electric cars don’t drive very far – It’s a common misconception that electric cars can’t be used for long journeys. In fact, most electric cars are currently capable of about 200 miles of driving before they need to be recharged, and some of the newer models can even drive 300 miles or more. These are trickling down to the used car market, and shouldn’t worsen with age. AM suggests that integral to all EV sales should be advise on the installation of a home charge point, where possible.
- Charging electric cars is really difficult – There are around 16,5000 electric car charging points in the UK, and it doesn’t take long to get your car charged up. Rapid chargers can fill 85% of an EV’s battery in half an hour, and the Government has committed £440m to delivering charging infrastructure. Ask your dealer to give you a demonstration to put your mind at ease, and save the nearest charging points on your Sat Nav.
- Electric cars are too expensive – The number of drivers who told us they were worried about the initial cost of a vehicle halved in this year’s Britain Under the Bonnet report, but a quarter of drivers still think the price is too high. But as electric cars get more mainstream the costs of the used models are going down. The running costs are lower too – combine this with being exempt from road tax and there are savings to be made.
- You can’t get finance on a used electric car – Financing a used electric car can be a little more complicated than other models, but there are options available. Speak to your dealer and do your research to make sure the future value looks sensible, as residual values are a little trickier to forecast than conventional diesel or petrol cars.
- You need to replace the battery all the time – Batteries in new electric cars last around 10 to 20 years, and most manufacturers offer warranties to protect drivers. You should still be protected with a used car, but it’s worth chatting to your driver about the age of the battery and the best options to protect it in the long term.
The National Franchised Dealers Association (NFDA) launched its Electric Vehicle Approved (EVA) scheme at Automotive Management Live 2018 in a bid to offer a certified standard to retailers keen to fine-tune their AFV sales process.
Sue Robinson, director of the NFDA, said that the introduction of the Electric Vehicle Approved (EVA) scheme delivered “the only certified standard of its kind which is open to all automotive retailers and recognises and certifies, through an approved set of standards, the efforts that retailers are making in the electric vehicles sector to meet the ever-changing consumer demand.”
The NFDA’s launch of the EVA scheme followed the Government’s Department for Transport (DfT) publication of its Road to Zero strategy in July 2018.
The document defined how the government would ‘support the transition to zero emission road transport and reduce emissions from conventional vehicles’.
In Road to Zero, the Government highlighted the issues of lack of consumer confidence and businesses’ expertise in the EV sector.