Are retailers investing for EVs?

  16 September 2018

Nissan Leafs charging

One way or another electric/hybrid cars have been in the news a lot of late and focused attention on what we all know is just around the corner but I wonder if there is a danger of trying to build a house without foundations.

This week Theresa May promised £106 million to the sector, vacuum cleaner and hand dryer manufacturer Dyson made headlines when it showed plans for a 10 mile test facility for its cars due in 2021 (although it won’t reveal any plans for retailing them and yes, I did ask), and more street lamps are being adapted as recharging points.

It hardly takes a genius to see that five years from now the motor trade will look very different but I wonder, amid all this government investment and big corporate finance, if something is being overlooked.

There are two layers of bedrock in the car industry. One is that manufacturers must make products people want to buy but that won’t be a problem with EVs; the other is that retailers must sell and service them and here there might be a bigger issue.

EVs are not just another new model for the sales execs to launch, retailers can’t just have a weekend event in their showroom with some canapes and Amazon vouchers for anyone taking a test drive. These cars and vans are a revolution and buyers need educating on how they can fit into their lives, all the way from purchase to disposal.

Governments and huge businesses may have money to spend but do the smaller, privately owned retailers? At a time when margins, profits and turnover are being squeezed, is there spare cash to train the sales and service teams and to invest the eye watering amounts needed in the workshops. I don’t see or haven’t read of many saying they are spending precious resources here, or banks increasing the credit facilities for them to do so.

And those are the franchises. What about the small independents catering for the used car sector, without which there is no new car market? Some are but from what I hear, not everyone is or can.

Of course EVs will soon dominate the market but there seem to be a few pieces of the jigsaw not yet in place. You build a house from the foundations up….


John Swift


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