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tesla semi truck.jpg Photo: Tesla

Dealers and electric vehicles

So here’s an interesting question for you: Are truck dealerships ready to sell commercial battery electric vehicles?

I was speaking with Rick Mihelic, NACFE’s director of future technologies, who reminded me that there was a time when dealers were reluctant to sell aerodynamic trucks over the iconic long and tall models they traditionally sold. That debate even fight at times, lasted 10 years and left a bunch of shattered careers in its wake, but today dealers are selling aero vehicles — and lots of them.

The whole issue of selling electric vehicles is complicated by the fact that in some states folks like Tesla are actually prohibited from opening dealerships. It seems many car dealers are lobbying to prevent the sale of electric cars in their states. There is some speculation about why that is happening.

The fact that dealers derive the majority of their income from the service work they perform is one theory being tossed about. We’ve all heard the speculation that electric vehicles will need less service than vehicles powered by internal combustion engines so there might be some validity to that theory. Some people believe maintenance on EVs will be one-third of that of a diesel-powered vehicle. If dealers are relying on service for a significant portion of their income, it is easy to see why they might not want to see electric vehicles being sold in their states.

However, electric vehicle development is too far along to think it will go away. Manufacturers — both existing truck makers and new entrants — are continuing to pour money into the R&D of battery-powered vehicles and customers seem to want them. If manufacturers are making them and customers want them, electric vehicles will find a way to get to market. There is nothing that will prevent buyers from crossing state lines to get the vehicles they want.

If I were a truck dealer, I would figure out how to make EVs a part of my product offering and how to adjust my business model going forward so I would be less dependent on revenue from vehicle service. Service revenue may not always be there…but commercial battery electric vehicles sure will.

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