Alex Lawrence is the CEO and cofounder of an all-electric used car dealership in Utah.
He says today's car-buying process gets it all wrong.
Here's his advice for car buyers shopping electric, as told to reporter Alexa St. John.
Alex Lawrence is a 49-year-old entrepreneur and the CEO of EVAuto, an all-electric used car dealership in Bountiful, Utah, which he co-founded in 2019. The business now has anywhere from 25 to 45 cars on the lot at any given time, he said.
The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
My first business was car detailing. I went door to door in wealthy neighborhoods near where I lived and asked if I could detail their car. Cars have always been a huge interest of mine. I put every possible dollar into my first car.
I was also always an early adopter of gadgets, software, and hardware. I spent the first half of my career in food franchising. Along the way, I was involved in starting and launching and being a part of some really cool tech startups. I also started teaching as an adjunct every once in a while, got an MBA, and then joined to start an entrepreneurship program. I decided to get a PhD, and then got the startup itch.
My cofounder and I were talking, and he said 'it's such a pain to buy or sell a used Tesla'
You have to go to a bunch of different places, you have to deal with a bunch of different salespeople, probably have a bunch of different bad experiences. It takes a lot of time.
So in 2019, we acquired evcars.com and evtrucks.com with the intention to build a marketplace for other people to buy and sell used electric vehicles.
To car buyers, only a handful of things matter
It's the self-driving status, the colors, the wheels, how far the battery will go on a charge, and that's about it.
Even to this day, for the vast majority of listing sites, it's really painful to look for those things, and in some cases, you can't even find them.
Our business model is that it's free to private sellers and dealers pay a monthly subscription. My cofounder also dusted off his dealer's license. Eventually, I bought a used Tesla from an auto auction, shipped it here, and listed it on the site, sold it, bought another car, and sold it. We're still building the marketplace too.
Nearly two years ago, we made a decision to really put some weight behind it. We wanted to be the largest seller of used electric vehicles in America. We bought a new piece of ground.
EVs are disrupting the car business
We're trying to disrupt the car-buying experience. Not by using the internet, but by creating a much better in-person experience. Having not been a car dealer until now, I know how terrible it is to buy a car. It's miserable. It's one of the worst buying experiences people have in their life, and it's the second biggest expense ever in their life.
Price cuts are one of the things that's really challenging about EVs and why a lot of dealers try to stay away from them.
We're different because we operate debt-free. I don't have to have cars and I don't have a traditional floorplan or interest payments. So if I don't have a bunch of cars right now, we might not make much money, we might even lose a little bit, but I'm not sitting on inventory that's overpriced.
There are flags to look out for at the dealership
All the tricks that I've learned dealers can do to customers: Pressure you, get you to buy add-ons, and make it take a long time unnecessarily.
We'll do the little things to make it a Nordstrom white-glove experience. The majority of car dealerships don't do them well, some by design and some just because they've been around forever and it's hard to change.
The vast majority of our customers have a million questions, and they're first-time EV buyers
Range anxiety, charging issues: How do I charge it? Where do I charge it? When can I charge it? How far can I drive it? How long is the battery going to last? How much is it going to cost me for a new battery? When am I going to have to replace this?
They're very valid. For some people, it means certain cars aren't the right fit for them. We start asking them questions about their driving lifestyle. My whole household's been driving exclusively electric for four years now.
You're never going to need a charging station unless you're on a trip
We can put a charger in your garage and you're going to wake up every morning with 300, 280, 250, however many miles, and virtually nobody drives that much in a day. By the way, there are Superchargers, etcetera, all around you.
When they say, 'What about trips?' I ask where they go, and here in Utah, it's a lot of the same locations. If you leave with a full charge, you'll stop at one of the Superchargers between here and there for about 20 minutes.
It's not two minutes like gas, but you'll get a drink, go to the bathroom, check your phone, and you're out of there.
A variety of EVs are popular with buyers, but especially Teslas given their market share
Within Teslas, Model Ys and Model 3s, plus Rivians are really popular. We've had some good luck with the Ford Lightnings. We're starting to see certain Audis, and BMWs.
Not as much the Hyundais, Kias, Mach-Es, or Chevrolet Bolts. I think those are going to become more popular with the new tax changes happening in January, where you can use the credit as a down payment. That will make the lower-priced ones appealing to more people.
We only do clean title, really clean Carfax, nice cars, and we buy them without damage.
Find somebody that really knows about EVs and is totally immersed to help you make the best decision
Tesla is the right option for many people, even most, but it's not for everyone — and even then there's a broad range of different Teslas.
Beyond that, I really think that actually driving them is important.
We're wrapping a Model S Plaid, so that will be my daily driver for marketing, but I'll drive anything from our lot
I think the Hummer EV is awesome. They're not practical, but they're so fun.
I'm really impressed with the Rivian R1S. It's my favorite-looking SUV. The build quality is really high. They're really cool looking. Now that they're going to be on the Supercharger network, that helps solve the charging problem.
My favorite-looking sedan is the Porsche Taycan.
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