In March, new EV registrations increased to 3.1 percent of the market, according to IHS Markit. That’s significantly more than they had represented recently but still only a sliver of the overall market.
Central lots could shift pressure to sell EVs from dealers to automakers, said Mike Bowsher, owner of Carl Black Automotive Group in Kennesaw, Ga., and chairman of Chevy’s national dealer council.
“They’re going to be handling the holding costs of the centralized stock, so it’s up to them to make sure the [vehicles are] moving, incentivewise or whatnot,” he said.
The model could also identify market trends. As new EVs debut, dealers won’t necessarily know which colors or trim levels will sell in their markets, said Howard Drake, dealer principal at Casa de Cadillac, Buick-GMC Sherman Oaks and Subaru Sherman Oaks in Southern California. Nearby pools with a selection of trims and colors could be helpful for a while, he said.
“I can sell three a month, but which three? Are they black? Are they high trim, low trim? This will give us a chance to answer some questions,” he said. “I don’t think [central stock is] going to be the answer over a long period of time because eventually I’m going to figure out my market, what’s best for my customers. I’m going to want to order specific to my store.”
The first GMC Hummer EV pickups are scheduled to reach dealerships late this year to fill customer reservations, which sold out within minutes last fall. Cadillac and GMC are still working through their EV distribution strategy before the Hummer launch and next year’s release of the Cadillac Lyriq.
“We are working with our Cadillac National Dealer Council on the allocation model,” said Mahmoud Samara, vice president of Cadillac North America. “We have already had a couple of discussions, and I feel we are in a good place whereby we’ll have a plan that is aligned between what Cadillac wants and also a plan that is ready for the dealers to act upon.”
Bowsher said Chevy has worked with its dealer council over the last 18 months to develop a digital retail platform and EV distribution model that will benefit both GM and dealers.
“The folks that may have concerns about a direct model haven’t been involved behind the curtain,” Bowsher said. “I can assure them that there is no plan whatsoever to go to a direct model.”