SONS Auto Group used-vehicle director says EV market ‘just not there’
Electric vehicles are in the headlines daily. New models, government deadlines, new battery plant construction and more.
But that doesn’t always translate to buyers, says Nate Myers, used-vehicle director at SONS Automotive Group, which has dealerships throughout Georgia and Alabama.
“There’s absolutely no demand,” Myers said of EV activity in his markets. “Outside of Tesla, which we sometimes put in our BMW store in Atlanta, we sell the car, but we don’t ever go out on an acquisition strategy and actively search for electric vehicles.
“There is absolutely no demand in our market outside of Tesla,” Myers said, noting that other than spotty interest in Atlanta market, there simply isn’t an appetite for EVs in their markets.
Part of the problem is price. Everyone talks about Tesla, but Myers pointed out Tesla buyers are a small, niche market with dollars to spend.
“The guy who wants to drive a Ford, or who wants to drive a Chevy or Honda, when they go into a store their new pilot EV model is often not even on their mind,” said Myers.
“There’s only so many people that are going to buy them, and there’s a lot of people that don’t trust them; the infrastructure is still not there. So I believe that depending on what happens in the election next year, that will dictate the direction of where the EV market goes,” Meyers said.
If there is a changeup in Washington, Myers said it’s likely there will be a sit down to get realistic about the transition into EVs.
“If EVs were in demand, they would just start building in number on the roads, and come in gradually — and people would get used to them,” he said.
He cited Toyota’s approach and focus on the hybrid market as an example on how to ease consumers into more fuel efficient vehicles.
He offered the example of his 62-year-old mother who went in to buy a new car this past summer and was “scared to death” of being forced into an electric car.
The dealer ended up showing her a hybrid, and she walked out with a new hybrid model.
When you look at the history of hybrids in the U.S., it’s taken a long time for those models to gain traction.
“To me, Toyota did it right. They came out with the Prius, and this hybrid line took time to gain traction. You still had people that had opinions about Priuses and then slowly, you could get a nice hybrid Camry; you could get a nice hybrid Corolla,” Myers said.
“They started slowly adding hybrid models, but now people have a taste for the car, but they didn’t force it on anybody,” he said. “They showed they could build a reliable product, especially based on how many Prius’ you know see with over 100,000 miles on the road.”
EVs, on the other hand, are still not seeing the same demand, even as governments and OEMs push electrification mandates and deadlines.
“There’s a sense of security when you’re driving down the interstate and you’re at a quarter of a tank of gas, and you know whenever you decide to get that gas that you can, and use the restroom; do whatever you need to do,” said Myers. “Well, if you have an electric car, it’s not the same scenario.”
And infrastructure is still long away from where it needs to be for widespread adoption, he said.
“If they were smart they would just listen to the markets. We know people buy EVs in California, so focus on building the infrastructure out there,” Myers said.
As these new EVs continue their lifecycle into the used market, Myers said there’s going to be a big problem.
“Outside of a 2- to 3-year-old Tesla, people aren’t going to buy these used vehicles. If they aren’t comfortable with them (EVs) new, why are they going to be comfortable with them when they are used?” said Meyers. “They are never going to buy them.”
How are these Teslas going to perform in the used-car market? It could be challenging in some markets where there is consumer reticence.
“If you go anywhere rural and have conversations with people, you’ll see the challenge. There’s even still some conspiracy theories out there dealers have to handle,” Myers said.
He offered the example of an Alabama customer who told Myers that the government was building electric cars to kill people. Myers said the important thing to consider is why this opinion exists.
This customer had read on the news that if a Tesla catches fire, it takes five times the water to put the fire out than one in an internal-combustion vehicle.
“I’ve talked to dealers about this challenge, because that’s truly the perception of EVs in rural America; some variation on that,” Meyers said. “We have a long time to go there in terms of EV sales and adoption.”
Myers will be on site at NADA Show, planning to look further into other trends in the industry beyond EVs.
“I feel like you get out of it (NADA event), what you put into it,” he said. “So every time I go to the car week, as long as I come back with something that I got out of it that benefits our company, then it makes sense for me to go.”
This year, Myers is focused on technology outside the realm of EVs..
“I’ll be interested to see and hear all the new info on AI in auto,” said. “I think this is going to be an interesting thing in the auto industry in the coming years.”
Myers said he’s interested in how the technology can help dealers get more people in the showroom, and close more deals.
Many are working on algorithms on selling cars without human intervention.
“I’ve yet to see that be successful,” he said. “There’s certain things that I feel like you can replace some human capacity, but there’s certain things that you need the human capacity, too.
“So we’ll see,” he said.