Chevy Bolt EV and the new EV/Hybrid Sales Center

Buzz, Bolt EV brochure and "Electric Avenue"Yesterday was an important day for me. Classic Chevrolet, in Grapevine, Texas, held the grand opening of its new EV and Hybrid Sales Center. The center was an idea I pitched to Tom Durant, President of Classic, early last year. Informally, we have been calling it “Electric Avenue,” in homage to the 1983 hit song by Eddy Grant. I’ve been playing the song a lot lately, as the date to open approached.

Eddy Grant "KIller on the Rampage" album

This is the album cover. 80’s enough for ya?

A couple of weeks back, a client who wanted to order a Bolt EV from me, contacted me to say he’d gone through a dealer in California, bought one and had it shipped to him in Texas. This is possibly the only Bolt EV in Texas, so I had to ask if he’d mind bringing it by the dealership to show to others wanting a Bolt. He graciously agreed to do so.

Bolt EV at Classic Chevrolet

Potential Bolt EV buyers attending the grand opening

This, I thought, is exactly the centerpiece we needed for our grand opening! (more on this in a later post…)

My original idea was based on my time at Apple. I worked in an Apple Store as a Business Manager, so it occurred to me that moving someone from Windows OS to MacOS has many of the same challenges as moving someone from a gasoline-powered vehicle to an EV or hybrid. The potential customer has tons of questions, as I did before getting our first Volt, back in 2012. Answering these questions requires a salesperson who has a deep understanding of these new vehicles. As I’ve mentioned before, it takes a salesperson much longer to sell an EV and the profit margin is thin, meaning the salesperson’s commission on the sale will be small.

Longer sales cycle + lower profit margin = disinterested sales staff.

Buzz at the Mothership

Buzz at the Mothership.

Thinking of my days at Apple, it occurred to me that the sales model for EVs has to be different than how other vehicles are sold.

The first step, in my opinion, would be to leverage technology, so the salesperson isn’t constantly repeating the same answers and anecdotes, over and over. The Chevy website has videos to view, but it seems that people are not getting the answers there. Also, some of the questions might require much more than a two minute video to answer. I also felt that sitting across a desk from customers places a barrier between salesperson and customer. Apple preached this and has been working on ways to get even the “Geniuses” (technical assistance providers in the stores) on the same side of the table as the customer. Having been involved in business sales at Apple, I knew of many apps available to help businesses, could be employed in this model.

EA Main RoomI described a layout, similar to an Apple store, with tables and barstools, where clients and salespeople could gather to discuss EVs & hybrids. These tables would be employed as the place to get answers. As such, without personal financial information being discussed, a single salesperson could answer the questions for multiple clients simultaneously, multiplying the salesperson’s effectiveness.

JV Buzz

Buzz, in an Apple brochure

It also allows current EV drivers to share their knowledge with potential EV owners. The importance of this is that the person considering the switch to electric propulsion would drop their defenses, believing the EV driver isn’t making a commission and therefore, would be more truthful than the vehicle salesperson. This is similar to the idea I pitched to my Volt salesperson for National Plug-in Day. Who better to explain EVs than an EV owner? All of us a raving fans and the enthusiasm can become contagious, as the buyer realizes how happy the EV owner is with their purchase. Of course, there will be many times when there won’t be an EV owner at the table, so the next step will be to add iPads, held in kiosk frames attached to these tables. Behind each of the televisions, will be a computer, wirelessly connected to the iPads and directly connected to the television. On the iPad, could be a list of common questions from the EV-curious. The customer, by tapping on the question they want answered, would see a short video or presentation, answering the question, displayed on the television nearest the table. When a customer enters the main room, the TVs would all be playing slideshows or videos in a loop, so they can be passive in their interaction, if that’s the style they prefer. When it becomes time to take a credit application, or have any other private conversation, there is an office (at the far end in the photo above), that would be employed. Even in that office, the client and salesperson are on the same side of the work surface, which is a countertop along two of the office walls.

Education LoungeAnother effort that is very time-consuming for the salesperson, is the vehicle delivery. Once the buyer purchases or leases an EV or hybrid, a good salesperson will spend about forty-five minutes, to an hour, explaining how everything works. This is time the salesperson is not making money for the dealership or themselves, so this step is often hurried and not informative. My solution to this was guided by the layout of the building. At the end of the building, opposite the office, was a 16′ X 16′ room that formerly housed a car rental desk for clients dropping their vehicle off for service or the body shop. (Our dealership gives out loaner vehicles, if the customer’s vehicle is still under warranty and they made their service appointment in advance.) I decided I would use that room for the delivery portion of the sales workflow. While a customer is waiting for a salesperson to become available, waiting for a test drive or waiting to go to Finance to make the purchase, they can watch a video to be told all the things I would tell them, after the sale was complete. Some dealerships have created a position specifically for vehicle delivery, a technical person, who can help the customer learn about their new vehicle, to set up their OnStar (telematics) service as well as their Chevrolet web portal and MyChevrolet phone app. I don’t care for that idea, because I want to make sure my customers get all the information they need. The video approach helps kill waiting time, a common frustration in the car-buying experience and it also allows EV buyers to share their excitement with one another.

It worked!

Robert, the Bolt EV owner, chatting with other EV enthusiasts!

Another purpose for the room, would be to offer it to EV clubs and other groups wanting to learn about EVs and/or hold meetings. I have offered it to the leadership of the North Texas Electric Automobile Association, for their meetings. I look forward to hosting meetings of groups wanting to know more, without the pressure of taking up a salesperson’s time, knowing they are keeping the salesperson from making a sale. It was quite gratifying, when I saw the visitors at our grand opening, naturally gravitating to the “EV Learning Lounge,” sharing stories and enjoying the camaraderie of fellow EV fanatics.

Bolt BadgeI do not claim to have all the answers, but I do recognize many of the hurdles to EV sales. Several of my colleagues, seasoned car salespeople, have expressed doubts about my ideas and expect me to fail. This building will be a work-in-progress and a learning experience. I’m sure we’ll have to tweak things along the way, but I am determined to make the EV buying experience faster and much more fun.

Many thanks to Tom Durant for the opportunity to move EV sales forward!Tom Durant, Buzz and a street sign

7 thoughts on “Chevy Bolt EV and the new EV/Hybrid Sales Center

  1. The questions to which nobody on the planet can answer are the real PITAs. For example the first thing for me after my Bolt delivery is to find a folding spare tire ala VW Turaug folding spare. Nobody on earth knows where to buy a properly sized one of those…

  2. Congratulations on the opening! I think you’re making the right call and I think this concept is a great idea. The Bolt and Model 3 are going to make a huge impact and it will only help Volt sales. (Still the best selling plug in all time in the US… Go Volt!)

  3. GM says the Bolt will be the “platform” for upcoming models. I thought that meant that other body styles will be developed which fit on the same frame with the same drive train.

    Does GM really want to use such a small frame for other models?

    Maybe GM means it will use the Bolt EV technology for other models, but not the frame. Do you know?

    • I do not know if they mean the way the battery is like a skateboard, under the car and integral to the structure or if they mean the actual frame. I expect, in the battle for EV range and lower pricing, we’ll be seeing small GM EVs for a while, until battery prices drop even further. I’m hoping for a 2door coupe (or better yet convertible) and a Colorado-sized pickup.

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