Electric vehicles are not easy to find in American car dealerships, a survey from environmental group Sierra Club confirms. Two-thirds of auto dealerships surveyed in the United States did not have a single battery electric or plug-in hybrid vehicle for sale.
That doesn’t align with the Biden administration’s climate goals, which depend on consumers switching from gas-guzzling cars to electric vehicles to dramatically reduce tailpipe emissions. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last month proposed aggressive new emissions standards that are expected to boost electric vehicle sales to more than two-thirds of all auto sales by 2032.
Survey exposes challenges that could keep more customers in the US from going electric
The survey lays out the challenges that could keep more customers in the U.S. from switching to electric the next time they’re at a dealership, from supply chain issues to limited options when it comes to the types of cars on the market.
Sierra Club staff and volunteers called or visited 801 randomly selected dealerships across the United States in 2022 to complete the survey. It excludes companies like Tesla that sell vehicles directly to customers without their own independent dealer network. Sierra Club asked dealerships if they had electric or hybrid vehicles for sale. And if not, would they want to sell them, barring any inventory issues?
It turns out that just 34 percent of dealerships had at least one EV for sale. The other two-thirds of dealers don’t. “We have big plans to sell EVs, but we can’t find any,” a Chevrolet, Buick and Cadillac dealer in Maryland responded.
Inventory issues have been the biggest roadblock nationwide, the survey found. Surprisingly, only 27% of dealerships on the US West Coast had EVs, fewer than any other region. But since more EVs are sold on the West Coast than anywhere else, the scarcity of EVs for sale in California, Washington state, and Oregon likely indicates high sales turnover.
A Nissan dealership in Washington noted that they’ve sold just about 1,700 of the automaker’s Leaf electric sedans in the past 10 years, but are now struggling to keep them in stock. “Right now they can’t have more than one at a time and it sells immediately,” the merchant said. Nissan is reportedly planning to discontinue the Leaf, one of the first available mid-price options that introduced early adopters to EVs, while also launching a new range of next-generation EVs.
While overall EV inventory was low, the survey found that some luxury vehicles were more available than more affordable alternatives. Mercedes-Benz dealerships had the most EVs on hand, with EVs available in 90% of the locations surveyed. Toyota and Honda were on the other end of the spectrum, with EVs being sold to 15 and 11 percent of dealerships, respectively. (Both automakers have been slow to roll out their next-generation EVs.)
“The bottom line is that automakers need to invest more in EV production to meet consumer demand,” the report said. That’s easier said than done, of course, with a global shortage of semiconductors and the covid pandemic completely destroying supply chains in recent years. President Joe Biden signed into law an updated EV tax credit with the Inflation Reduction Act, but it’s full of stipulations about where the car and all of its parts were manufactured.
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Of the 66 percent of dealerships nationwide with no EVs for sale, a whopping 45 percent of them reported that they “would not offer an EV for sale regardless of automaker allocation and supply chain constraints.”
Some of the reasons why go back to logistical headaches. “We have to install the chargers before the automaker can send us EVs to sell,” a Chevrolet dealer in Wyoming said in the survey. But Wyoming is also one of the states where Republican lawmakers are looking to ban electric vehicle sales.
If that sentiment catches on, that’s bad news for the climate. Transportation makes up more than a quarter of US greenhouse gas emissions, the bigger piece of its carbon footprint.