Experiences with electric car shopping at dealers?

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PJD
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I know this is primarily a do-it-yourself dominated 2-wheel forum (mostly Vectrix), but I'd like to learn about other people's experience with dealerships and car salespersons when shopping for a 4-wheel EV in various parts of the USA/Canada/Europe/Australia. So far, in my contacts with a Mitsubishi and a Smart dealer here in Pittsburgh, USA have left me with a distinct impression that dealers are not very interested, or even hostile to selling their electric models.

What have other people's experiences been?

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LeftieBiker
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Re: Experiences with electric car shopping at dealers?

I leased a Leaf in 2013, and it really varies wildly by dealer, even with that popular EV. You have to find a dealer who is certified for the EV line their manufacturer sells, wants to sell them in significant numbers, *and* has a good reputation. If you are looking for a Smart or an iMiev (the latter would be a mistake, IMO), find a forum for owners of that car, and they should be able to direct you to a decent dealership. The Smart ED has a pretty good following here in the US now. Whatever you do, don't try to buy an EV from a dealership not interested in selling them: they will try to hose you on the price, and then the service will be terrible.

PJD
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Re: Experiences with electric car shopping at dealers?

Thanks for the advice. Following it will probably mean the closest dealer I should deal with is in the DC area, about 230 miles to my southeast - and forget service - even if they will sell or lease a vehicle to someone living that far away...

There shouldn't be anything to break on an electric car anyway. Eh?

LeftieBiker
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Re: Experiences with electric car shopping at dealers?

There shouldn't be anything to break on an electric car anyway. Eh?

No, not really, but there are things like defects and software updates (my Leaf needed two of those) that need to be done by a dealer. Do you know what car you want, or do you want to test drive a few? If the latter, look for owners groups or, better yet, EV clubs in your area.

LCJUTILA
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Re: Experiences with electric car shopping at dealers?

I am acquainted with the Leaf Salesperson at the Downtown Los Angeles Nissan Motors Dealership. His name is Paul Scott.
Give him a call. He is a devoted E.V.er and Solar Power guy. He also owns a Vectrix.
He may be able to give you the inside scoop on how to get what you want from a nearby disinterested Dealer. (two one three)78five- 336eight.

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MEroller
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Re: Experiences with electric car shopping at dealers?

Paul Scott, from all I know, WAS the Leaf Salesperson at the Downtown Los Angeles Nissan Motors Dealership. But he has "officially" retired from this job for some time already. However, I am not certain of a possible "unofficial" part in this :-)
Most notably he is a founding member of "Plug In America".

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E-Sprit Fury (basis is the Erider Thunder 5000) since May 03, 2011. Highly moded - but now in active retirement

LCJUTILA
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Re: Experiences with electric car shopping at dealers?

I did not realize that Paul had retired. I guess it has been a long time since I spoke to him after all.

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LeftieBiker
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Re: Experiences with electric car shopping at dealers?

There are West Coast Nissan dealerships who will happily ship a new Leaf to a buyer elsewhere, at a competitive price. It would help if we knew what model EVs you are considering, and which ones you aren't...

PJD
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Re: Experiences with electric car shopping at dealers?

I'm interested in a Smart Electric Drive. It is the perfect car for the all-city/suburban street commute my wife is doing and ability to park in the back of the house where the charger needs to go. The advertized lease price is just $1433 then $129 per month. Even a monthly transit pass is $98.00!

I'll probably just go to my local "Smart Center" this Saturday see how they are face-to-face.

LeftieBiker
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Re: Experiences with electric car shopping at dealers?

The Smart ED has a pretty loyal following, and there is also the advantage of it being a variant of a car that is widely sold with ICE drivetrain. It should be easier to find a dealership that can get you one, and service it. You should know that a new version is due in 2016: this means there may be deals to had, or if you want the best technology, you can lease as planned and then "upgrade" in two or three years. The only bad thing I've read about the car (aside from design-inherent things like only two seats) is that, like all non-heatpump-equipped EVs, the heater really sucks power. Also, I think the heated seats are optional, when they should be standard. Living up here, don't fail to get them! Although, having used aftermarket heated seat pads in my old Camry, I suppose you could use the lack of them as a bargaining chip and then use the pads in Winter...

Oh, I think the seat comfort also is rated below average. Again, probably fixable.

PJD
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Re: Experiences with electric car shopping at dealers?

Do you see electric cars every day where you live? Pennsylvania isn't New York - there are more fracking drill rigs than EV's around here. So I can't believe how there can be a loyal following for any of them - I'm going to be a pioneer.

From what I can see, I'll just be lucky to order one then wait a year. Smarts are only sold in "smart centers", only one in my region. They may say there are none available and I will have to wait and get a (more expensive?) 2016 model.

I'm really only looking for a lease - I can't afford to take a note out. I'm not picky. A seat is a seat - one is not driving an electric car 5 hours at a time.

In the winter, I presume one can pre-heat the car with a small electric heater and save a lot or energy out of the pack.

LeftieBiker
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Re: Experiences with electric car shopping at dealers?

My area has a fair number of EVs (I'm in a local Facebook group with over 100 members, although not all have EVs) but my town doesn't - I may be the only pure EV driver here. My housemate drives a Prius PHEV (my doing) and I see those and, rarely, a Volt or Leaf, but in this town I'm in much the same situation you'll be. I'm fairly sure you can preheat the Smart, and if you install L-2 charging you should be able to do it with the car's heater, using "shore power". I can ask my group about that if you like.

LeftieBiker
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Re: Experiences with electric car shopping at dealers?

So, did you get to drive a Smart ED today? I hope to keep extending my Leaf's lease for as long as I can, but I'll probably end up driving one myself, if I live a few more years.

PJD
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Re: Experiences with electric car shopping at dealers?

Nope.

The smart showroom is in an upstairs space above a Mercedes dealership showroom. A salesman from downstairs took me up there and the normal salesperson was not there. We talked briefly about my interest in a electric drove, but he explained that they do not keep any electrics at the dealership and it would have to be ordered sight-unseen. He suggested I leave contact information on the salesperson's desk and she will get back with me. She still hasn't gotten back with me.

No, I don't live in a hick-town, I live in a metro area of about 1.8 million. Pittsburgh. Ever heard of it?

I will look into getting one at a dealership on the nearer side of the DC Area (Germantown, MD) where I think they do keep electrics in the inventory. 220 miles is a long way to go look at a car though. How does registering a leased car (especially across state lines) work?

LCJUTILA
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Re: Experiences with electric car shopping at dealers?

I am surprised that it is so hard to buy an electric car in a city of 1.8 million people.
I guess I have a distorted view of the acceptance of electric vehicles in the U.S. living out here in L.A.
I see an average of 5 a day just when I walk my dog in the morning. One day I counted ten. That includes plug ins.
Today I saw a Tesla, Spark, Volt, Leaf, Fusion and C-Max.
They have Sparks out here for lease for about $2k down and $89 per month.
I don't know if you could get one into your back yard though.
Good luck hunting.

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PJD
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Re: Experiences with electric car shopping at dealers?

I called the Maryland Smart dealer about a Smart electric drive. What a difference!

With no haggling he offered me lease terms of no down $146 per month, or $1k down $115 per month. Additional discounts are available to teachers or military vets who have USAA insurance. Cars are in stock and ready to go. He'll ship it to Pittsburgh for $250. The truck will drop it off at my local Smart dealer - but they have nothing to do with the deal.

The difference is simply that New York, New Jersey and Maryland have a number of EV incentives to both buyers and dealers. The Maryland government pays most of the cost for a business or homeowner to install a EVSE too.

Pennsylvania, which is a state (ooops, "commonwealth") that still thinks that the path to prosperity is more coal mine boney piles, oil derricks and smokestacks, has nothing - and has no plans to do anything. Pittsburgh is perfect city for subcompact EV's like the Smart becasue it has almost European compactness and driving distances for commuting and any errand is short. With its 50 mile range, I have gotten range anxiety in my Current scooter only once in the 4 years I've been riding it, and still have never had to "opportunity charge" it or charge it at the destination. But without the incentives, EVs are still going nowhere.

Californians should never forget that the acceptance of electric cars there has less to do with marketing or individual "green" motivation and almost all to do with smart state government action.

Edit:

It seem there is IS an incentive program - Since 2013, PaDEP gives a $2000 (down from $3000 in 2013) rebate for plug-in electric vehicles until a whopping 500 are claimed or until end of June 2015. There are currently 64 rebates still available (in a state with a population of almost 13 million). There is also a $500 rebate for electric MC's/scooters.

LCJUTILA
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Re: Experiences with electric car shopping at dealers?

The pro electric car/alternative energy State Government of California did not magically appear. It was elected by the people.

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reikiman
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Re: Experiences with electric car shopping at dealers?

Sorry for being a little late to this ...

FWIW, the only thing I know about car sales in Western Pennsylvania is that one of your Congressmen, Rep. Mike Kelly, got into that position because his Chevy dealership (that his Father started 50+ years ago) was nearly shutdown during the GM bankruptcy proceedings. He got angry, fought back, and then got angry enough to become a tea-party Republican Congressman. As a Chevy Dealer he has absolutely forbade sales of the Chevy Volt, and if I recall correctly he fired a sales manager who took some of them onto the lot. He pushed for legislation back in 2011-12 to gut the Federal tax credits. He was allowed to sit in on the committee hearing which called GM CEO Dan Akerson and NHTSA Administrator Strickland to testify about the Chevy Volt fire - even though he wasn't normally a part of that committee - and even though he was a Chevy Dealer meaning that you had a Chevy Dealer Congressman interrogating the man who's effectively his boss, the CEO of General Motors.

Anyway ... as for buying versus leasing.

I believe that at this juncture it's better to lease because the market is changing so rapidly that leasing the car means you have some protection. For example, what will be the value of a 2015 Leaf in 2017 when Nissan has 200+ mile range Leaf's for sale?

I recently sold my Karmann Ghia and prior to doing so I leased a 2015 Kia Soul EV. It's an excellent electric car and I believe is a better value than anything else available now.

It's my first time leasing, I prefer to own vehicles outright.

What I learned is that the lease payment is meant to cover the difference between MSRP (today's price) and the expected future resale value. That way if you decide to walk away at the end of the lease, the leasing company can resell it and get the full vehicle value between your lease payments and the final sales value.

I have no idea if I got a good deal - it was the deal Kia was advertising at that point. The lease payments are a lot more than what you're saying for the Smart ED, however.

The difference is that the Soul EV has a longer driving range -- has more room -- has fast charging -- is therefore all-around more useful. Between the longer range and fast charging it has more autonomy than anything else currently on the market short of the Tesla's.

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PJD
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Re: Experiences with electric car shopping at dealers?

Dave,

Thanks for the vignette on Mike Kelly. I had no idea he was behind the virtual total absence of Chevy Volts in my area. His district, which covers a piece of rural/small town area from north of Pittsburgh to Lake Erie, is a notoriously right-wing place.

But then, go into the city limits of Pittsburgh and one runs into the opposite problem - its growing young hipster anarcho-bicycle culture is pretty hostile to all cars - electric or otherwise - even electric motor scooters and pedelecs. I'm pretty sympathetic to this attitude myself. My interest in personal EV's only started when living essentially car-free became impossible when my job moved to the suburbs. So, not many EV's are sold in the city either.

Anyway, more news - the Maryland dealer gives an additional $1000 discount on a lease of a Smart EV for USAA insurance members. My late father was in the Navy, so this entitled me to join the USAA, and while the insurance quote is more expensive than what my existing State Farm agent can offer, I'm still ahead getting the USAA insurance for now. This will bring the car down to $1000 down and just $80 a month.

Regarding range, Pittsburgh is nothing like the sprawl of California. An average driver around here drives about 7000-8000 per year. The 70-80 mile range (40-50 in cold weather) is still adequate for at least two average commute round trips. And as I wrote earlier, I'd even pay more for the Smart's small size and simplicity (still has just crank windows) - as long as my wife understands that she cannot turn it into her rolling personal home office, living room and boudoir like she has with her Hyundai Elantra.

LeftieBiker
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Re: Experiences with electric car shopping at dealers?

We have several couples in our Facebook EV group who have two Smarts, although one is usually an ICE version. I'm glad you found a good deal on a lease. I'm not sure how Smart leases work, but most leases can be extended, so if you have a low payment it works out even better in the long run. There is often the risk of losing the down payment and having to start over from scratch if the car gets totaled, but otherwise a low payment resulting from a substantial down payment is a good thing - especially if part of that is free to you.

PJD
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Re: Experiences with electric car shopping at dealers?

Just got home. Mission accomplished. With the USAA discount, the total capitalized (depreciation) cost of the lease plus $250 to deliver the car the 215 miles to Pittsburgh was $1203.68. That's all! I paid it all at once. That left just the battery pack lease (a peculiar aspect of Smart EVs) at $84 a month.

Presumably, that depreciation cost is so low becasue they subtract much or all of the federal and state tax credits (about 10K) from the actual 3-year depreciation. That is as fine a use of my tax dollars as anything else I can think of. Better than spending it on drones and bombs...

They probably had at last a couple dozen Smart EVs on their lot. I picked one that is bright yellow with black trim (for visibility, not 'cause of the "Stillers", "Pens" or "Bucs" - really)

LeftieBiker
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Re: Experiences with electric car shopping at dealers?

Seat warmers, I hope? If not you can add at least one. I went lease-shopping for a Leaf knowing virtually virtually nothing about the car, and nothing about leasing. I had seen an ad for a 3 year $99 a month lease for a base S model, and was trying for that. The first dealer (the closest to me, naturally) claimed that NMAC (Nissan's leasing arm) was a third party unaffiliated with Nissan, and that Nissan dealerships didn't have to honor their ads. That was, of course, a lie. The next dealership was genuinely interested in leasing Leafs, and after some back and forth with their "internet sales manager" I arranged to come and choose between two S models at $129 a month or so, IIRC. I showed up on the hottest day (hottest weekend, in fact, in the Nineties) last year, and while the person I had corresponded with was absent and the cars were gone, the actual Sales Manager felt badly enough to spend several hours getting me into a car. At first it was just the salesman trying to make a sale of course, but once it became clear that I was serious, had certain needs because of my health issues (cruise control, mainly) and was in genuine distress from the heat, the SM found me an SV model that had most of the options (Quick charge excepted), for $1999 down (plus $1k in NY sales tax, dammit) and $149 a month. I didn't know then what a good deal that was, but I've never seen one as good for an SV that wasn't the rare "base SV" with no options. I just extended that lease for 12 more months, getting the last two months of my original lease free, but I'm now paying $10 more a month in that damned sales tax...

PJD
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Re: Experiences with electric car shopping at dealers?

The car can be pre-warmed while plugged in in winter.

The main issue with winter use will be the extra work keeping the steeply sloping driveway cleared so the car can get out. Before, I would just park on the street until I got around to shoveling or salting it. I guess I can run an extension cord across the lawn and sidewalk to the car. Just need remember where it is if it is buried in snow. The front stoop outlet is GFCI.

LeftieBiker
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Re: Experiences with electric car shopping at dealers?

Snow tires are probably in order.

MEroller
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Re: Experiences with electric car shopping at dealers?

Winter tires are simply not enough for the kind of sloping driveway PJD is talking about. We are in a very similar situation and on a day with fresh snow we NEED to clear the slope of it and at times even salt at least the tracks the tires will require for sufficient traction, be it uphill or back down into the garage. One expecially tricky winter day the slope looked just whet when we came home, but trying to stop on the slope in order to get out to open the garage door (that was before we had an automatic opener installed...) the car simply continued on a slow-motion downhill slide on a clear ice coating until it was stopped by the garage door...
It took a fair heap of salt and sand to thaw the ice suffciently and create traction so we could back up again to straighten the door and finally open it.

It would take at least studded winter tires to safely get up and down such a slope safely and reliably, up to a certain snow height. But here in Germany studded winter tires are only allowed on emergency vehicles, in order to keep road damage at bay.

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My rides:
QvR vR one: a Swiss package of pure understatement - innocent and to some eyes (from some angles) exceedingly ugly looks, but with raw and hardly containable electron power up to real 95 to 100km/h! And a literally rock-hard suspension due to a carrying capacity of twice it's unladen weight... Now converted to more controllable and efficient brushless motor and vector-contoller.

E-Sprit Fury (basis is the Erider Thunder 5000) since May 03, 2011. Highly moded - but now in active retirement

LCJUTILA
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Re: Experiences with electric car shopping at dealers?

Congratulations! I am very excited for you and look forward to you telling us how things are going.
I agree about the tax dollar comment.
Somebody was going to get that tax break so it might as well be you!
Happy Greenmotoring!

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PJD
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Re: Experiences with electric car shopping at dealers?

Yeah, was thinking about that. The Smart is a rear wheel drive - but is rear-engine/drivetrain too. The size tires it uses probably may not come in a snow tread. Do people still put snow tires on in the fall up your way? When I was growing up, people always put snow tires on cars in the winter even down in the DC area. Now nobody uses snow tires - they figure that "all weather" rating is good enough. The stupendous amounts of road salt used usually means one can make do without them.

PJD
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Re: Experiences with electric car shopping at dealers?

LCJUTILA,

Thanks.

I only wish that I could have bought local. I'll probably write Bobby Rahal - the dealership owner himself.

LeftieBiker
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Re: Experiences with electric car shopping at dealers?

Winter tires are simply not enough for the kind of sloping driveway PJD is talking about.

Oh, I didn't mean that there will be no issue with the driveway with snow tires, I just was reminded that EV driving is much improved by snow tires in Winter. Yes, people do seem to use snow tires less, to their own increased risk. I have a set of Pirelli "Carving Edge" snows for my Leaf, and while they aren't the best available (cost is always an issue for me) and they are loud, they are much better than all-seasons, especially in substantial snow. They are also surprisingly low in rolling resistance, because they are "studdable" instead of the very soft-compound snow & ice tires that are replacing studded ones. Now I need to get them off again, which reminds me to suggest that PJD price steel wheels as well, as the cost of swapping tires really adds up over several Winter seasons. It should be easy to find used Smart wheels, at least.

LCJUTILA
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Re: Experiences with electric car shopping at dealers?

You could run the extension cord through a long piece of plastic conduit that you just lay out on the ground. That would help prevent accidental damage to it when it gets buried in the snow.
None of this will be a problem until next year anyway...Spring is in the air!

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LeftieBiker
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Re: Experiences with electric car shopping at dealers?

The conduit would also be a good idea to have on hand in warm weather, in case you have to park on the street and charge there. If you do use an extension cord for EV charging, always make sure that the house or garage outlet is in excellent shape, as this (the plug/socket connection) is where heat usually builds up, and that the extension is at least 14 gauge (assuming 12 amp charging), and preferably 12 gauge.

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