Here’s Why it’s Still Difficult to Find EVs at Dealerships

A Chevrolet Bolt EV sits parked in the sales lot at Stewart Chevrolet on April 25, 2023 in Colma, California.
A Chevrolet Bolt EV sits parked in the sales lot at Stewart Chevrolet on April 25, 2023 in Colma, California.

If you’ve been trying to check out electric vehicles at your local car dealerships, only to find out there aren’t any in stock, you are not alone. According to a new survey by Sierra Club — reported on by Vox — two-thirds of U.S. car dealers didn’t have any new or used battery electric or plug-in hybrids for sale in 2022.

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With the U.S. committed to cutting its total emissions in half from 2005 levels by 2030, multiple automakers promising to go all-electric, and a number of upcoming fossil fuel-powered car bans in various states, you would think there would be a lot more access to EVs at dealerships. Unfortunately, that is not the case. The main problem behind low EV inventory isn’t exactly a surprising one: it’s supply chain issues. Semiconductor and battery production shortfalls have reportedly stopped manufacturers from making enough electric vehicles to go around.


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Vox reports that Honda, Toyota and Stellantis only had a few, if any, EVs or plug-in hybrids on sale in North America last year. Despite that, the survey says 44 percent of dealerships who didn’t have an EV on their lots would sell them if they could.

“The larger bottleneck is with the manufacturers themselves,” Katherine Garcia, director of the Clean Transportation for All Campaign at the Sierra Club, told Vox.

On the other side of the coin, 45 percent of dealers without EVs said they wouldn’t sell them even if they were available.

From Vox:

The structure of the car sales model can put dealers, manufacturers, and customers at odds since the economics of EVs can disrupt the business model for dealerships. It’s another critical choke point: If a dealer is resistant to stocking electric cars and trucks, a buyer might not have any nearby options for the specific EV they want since manufacturers grant dealers monopolies in a given area.

With the rise of all-electric carmakers like Tesla and Rivian, however, there’s a push for car companies to sell their vehicles directly to customers without the middleman. It’s forcing major auto companies and dealers to adapt and it will chart the route ahead for zero-emissions cars and trucks.

The EV buying experience can apparently vary rather greatly depending on what automaker you are looking to buy from. Ninety percent of Mercedes-Benz dealers had an EV for sale. Meanwhile, just 11 percent of Honda retailers could say the same thing, according to the study. It’s important to note that these numbers include EVs made by another manufacturer that happened to be for sale.

Vox reports that is partially due to the fact that parts and services can account for nearly half of a dealer’s profits, and on the whole, EVs require less maintenance. It means dealers won’t make as much money off the vehicles once they’ve been sold.

If you’re looking to buy an EV, your best bet is to head to the southeastern U.S. In states like Georgia and Florida, 41 percent of dealers had an EV for sale. However, in Western states like California, Oregon and Washington, only 27 percent of dealers had an EV on the lot. It does make sense though, considering the fact that the region accounts for 45 percent of all EV sales in the U.S. Higher demand means lower inventory.

Another aspect of this whole issue is that many people buying an EV for the first time don’t really know the ins and outs of the whole deal. Vox says they’d hope to rely on dealers to teach them about charging, maximizing range and taking advantage of government incentives. There are also certain technological hurdles that first time EV buyers have to learn about. If dealers aren’t selling the cars, then there’s not too many other places to learn about them other than YouTube or this silly little website. EVs offer a significantly different driving experience to most of their internal-combustion counterparts. At a very basic level, it’s important for people to give them a thorough test drive before purchasing.

Anyway, I don’t want to give too much away. Head on over to Vox to learn more about this pretty sizable problem facing U.S. consumers.

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