In the world of electric vehicle sales, there is a term used to illustrate how one closes an EV sale. That phrase is “butts in seats.” Unless the customer has come to the dealership to specifically drive a plug-in vehicle, (because they’ve been reading about them or hearing friends speaking fondly of their new EV) getting to the close, is an uphill battle.
Like the photo of the Bolt EV above, there was a famous photo of President Obama driving a Volt, that was part of a Politico article, early in Volt production. Around the same time, General Motors was taken over by the U.S. Government as part of the GM bankruptcy. Shortly thereafter, conservative news outlets started really hammering the Volt. Many of my conservative friends would use the bankruptcy, the government’s push to increase MPG (via the Cafe standards) and their belief that global climate change is a hoax to justify their lack of interest in plug-in vehicles.
That being the environment around the time I got my first Volt, I discovered the “butts in seats” principle even before I changed careers and went into vehicle sales. I visited a conservative friend of mine, who was helping me out on this blog, by shooting portraits of me. I, as usual, was very animated as I told him about my Volt and he drove my Volt around his neighborhood, while I showed him some of the features (like Sport Mode and the energy flow display on the center screen. When he went shopping for a new vehicle, he leased a Volt! This friend still does not believe in global climate change but he loves his Volt!
The lesson here was not lost on me. When I volunteered, at my dealership, to speak with potential Volt buyers on National Plug-in Day (now National Drive Electric Week), I just spoke with some people and some went on a test drive with me. Both sets of customers were excitedly listening to my story, but the one who actually bought a Volt that day, was the one I took driving.
This week, a coworker from my days at Apple came in to see me about a new fuel-efficient car to replace his pickup. He also mentioned he liked riding a little higher than a car. We started with a Chevy Equinox, then the new Malibu and next, the new Cruze Hatchback. He was really taken with the hatchback’s styling, so he was leaning very much in that direction.
He is one of the most conservative of my friends and quite vocal in his support of conservative ideals, on Facebook. Although at opposite ends of the political spectrum, he and I are cordial and respectful of one another. (See? It can be done!) I had mentioned two used, low-mileage 2016 Volts we had in stock. He was not very interested.
After the Cruze test drive, when he expressed that his choice was the Cruze Hatchback, I told hime we had one more vehicle to check out. Being an Apple employee, I told him I had Apple CarPlay set up in the car and I wanted him to see it in action, instead of just telling him about it. I started walking quickly (I always walk quickly) toward my Volt, which was plugged in nearby. I unlocked the car and climbed into the front passenger seat and told him, “Come on. You’re driving.” He climbed in and his wife joined us as well, in the back seat.
I ran them through my usual test drive. I always make sure I demonstrate these features:
- Energy flow display
- Regenerative braking
- “Classic Enhanced” driver information center display
- Blind side alert
- “L” (Volt owners will understand…)
- The region paddle
- Sport Mode
- Voice command of radio
- Apple CarPlay, including Maps and Siri voice commands
- Forward collision alert (just pointing it out, not risking collision)
- Lane Keep Assist
- Freeway driving (acceleration and quietness)
- Assisted parallel parking
- Hold Mode
- Plugging in & charging safety
He thanked me for the intro to the Volt but said he was going to buy the Cruze, which is fine by me. I’m there to inform customers and to help them get the car they want or need. It had run late into the evening, by the time we went to get his trade appraised, and we found that our appraiser had left for the night. My friend said he’d come back the next day to conclude the deal.
The next day, when he and his wife arrived, he shared this with me: He and his wife had talked about the Volt, “all the way home.” He was still getting the Cruze, but he admitted that I had opened his eyes. He even said that they may come back in a couple years, when it’s time to replace their other car and get a Volt. It was his first experience with a plug-in vehicle, so he expressed a desire to sit back and watch battery longevity and next generation styling, before jumping in the deep end of the pool.
There are a lot of preconceived notions about plug-in vehicles and many have been exposed to misinformation. A large number of people think the Volt was discontinued or “can burst into flames,” so there’s a lot to overcome.
But all it takes is getting a butt into a seat.