Publication Detail

Zero-emission Vehicles and Retail Innovation in the U.S. Automotive Sector: The Consumer Purchase Experience and Dealer Engagement

UCD-ITS-RR-14-45

Research Report

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Suggested Citation:
Cahill, Eric, Jamie Davies, Thomas S. Turrentine, Daniel Sperling (2014) Zero-emission Vehicles and Retail Innovation in the U.S. Automotive Sector: The Consumer Purchase Experience and Dealer Engagement. Institute of Transportation Studies, University of California, Davis, Research Report UCD-ITS-RR-14-45

Innovative new products like plug-in electric vehicles may need new approaches to market and sell them. We conducted 43 interviews with automakers and dealers selling plug-in vehicles in California’s major metro markets and analyzed data on customer satisfaction with new car dealers and Tesla retail stores. Our initial findings revealed:

  • Plug-in vehicle buyers rated the dealer purchase experience much lower than conventional vehicle buyers while Tesla earned industry-high scores;
  • Plug-in vehicles returned higher dealer gross profits but may insufficiently compensate for greater demands, including the provision of support services beyond traditional offerings;
  • Public incentives could better align with established dealer practices and business drivers to improve program effectiveness.

We consider how pre-existing retail configurations and arms-length manufacturer-dealer relations in the traditional franchised model could both enable and hinder retail innovations for PEVs. The paper considers implications and opportunities for policy.

Presented at Transportation Research Board 94th Annual Meeting, Washington, DC, January 11-15, 2015