Click baiting EV fans

Recently, there was a headline on several sites (even some that specialize in EV news) that GM’s Orion Township facility, where the Chevy Bolt EV is manufactured, was on an extended vacation shutdown, due to poor Bolt EV sales. Of course, as reported earlier, 8,171 Bolt EV’s have been sold, in it’s first 6+ months of availability and it still is not available nation-wide yet! That is better than any other vehicle I currently track, including the original Toyota Prius! Here’s how they rank, in their first 7 months of availability:

  • Bolt EV – 8,171
  • Prius (original) – 6,401
  • Prius Plug-in – 6,082
  • BMW i3 – 5,079
  • C-Max Energi – 3,951
  • Leaf – 3,894
  • Volt – 3,071
  • Model S – 2,650
  • Model X – 2,614
  • Fusion Energi – 2,591

Admittedly, the market has matured and expectations are higher. Some of these vehicles were manufactured, more or less, by hand and not in a mass production mode. The concept of a hybrid or electric vehicle isn’t as new or strange as when the more venerable of these vehicles debuted. But the Bolt EV isn’t even available nationally yet and it’s death knell is already being sounded?!?!?

I used to work for Apple, while Steve Jobs was still alive. I got to experience this from the inside, regarding the iPhone. Remember the iPhone “Antenna-gate scandal?” No? That’s because it was what came to be know an “click bait.” For those unaware of the term, click-bait is a bold headline, meant to convince the person seeing it to click on the link, to read the article. The reason for this, is to sell ads. The user, clicks on the link and the website hosting the story gets paid pennies for the ads that are presented alongside the article. Those pennies can add up to big money and did, whenever the “scandle” was Apple-related. Both Apple fan boys (of which I consider myself a member) and Apple haters would jump on the link to see the “news.” (I’d use the term “fake news,” had it not become so disreputable, recently…)

Well, EV and plug-in hybrid fans are at least as rabid as Apple fans. I often direct people, considering one of these fabulous vehicles, to the Facebook pages that have sprouted up for them. Nothing sells an EV like someone who owns one! Those same EV fans, just like the Apple fans before them, pounce on the click-bait articles, generating revenue for the sites posting the questionable articles and then repost them on Facebook to debate their veracity, whether through fear or indignation. This just fuels the fire and rewards the people posting the questionable articles, in the first place, reinforcing their crappy journalism by rewarding it.

In the real world of wanting to be the first to scoop the rest of the world, this probably cannot be helped. It’s not a new phenomenon…

Remember when?

The Bolt EV “news” was rebutted by a person who actually works at the plant. They said that the vacation/shutdown was extended to retool the line to produce more Bolt EVs at the detriment of Chevy Sonic production. The Sonic, for those unaware of it, is a very low-priced, small four-door sedan, which isn’t selling well, during these times of low cost gasoline.

Another recent “news story,” that I deem as click bait, include the UAW being in talks with GM about ending the production of “6 passenger cars.” The reason stated for this is that, with people buying large trucks and SUVs instead of cars, UAW members working at plants that produce cars are being financially hurt by extended vacations, lack of overtime, etc.

One of the offshoots of the above-mentioned UAW/GM story, is that it is predicted that the Chevy Volt would be a victim of this in 2020.

I’m a major fan of the Chevy Volt. We have had five of them so far, in our household. You’re probably aware of that.

I was not perturbed by the story at all, for a several reasons:

  • The American public has an incredibly short memory, when it come to vehicles. Every time gas prices go down, we forget the struggle of high gas prices/gasoline shortages. Demand is a pendulum. Americans go back and forth, between small, fuel-efficient vehicles and large, not-so-efficient SUVs (remember Hummers?). All it takes is a war in an oil-rich area or for the effects of climate change to become apparent and the pendulum will swing back.
  • Every day, I get to see people drive a Bolt EV or Volt for the first time. I see them light up over the acceleration, the silence and how inexpensive they are to operate, even when considering how cheap gas is.
  • I interact daily online, with owners of EVs and plug-in hybrids and know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that 99% of these people will never, ever go back to an exclusively gasoline-powered vehicle. I call this the “stickiness” of EVs. It’s sort of like the Hotel California, in that (paraphrasing) “you can check out any time you like, but you won’t ever leave.
  • Finally, it was the 2020 prediction of the Volt’s demise. I’m completely cool with that. In 2020, the Volt will be ten years old. Advances in battery technology, as well as the expected roll-out of faster charging infrastructure, makes me hope it’s true. There should be no reason for plug-in hybrids to exist, after 2020! Some other incarnation of the Volt, one that’s fully electric, should bring about the retirement of this wonderful GM creation. (Personally, I’m hoping for a fully-electric, two-seat convertible roadster…that I can afford)

So, don’t fret. Someone once said there’s a tipping point coming that most people, pundits included, don’t foresee.

The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades.

It is done

I have been trying hard to make it an entire year without buying gasoline. By “trying hard,” I don’t mean babying my Volt. Those that know me, know that I’ve had it to top speed numerous times and accelerate hard every time I take off from a stop. In other words, I drive it like I stole it.

The last time I bought gasoline was August 10, 2016. Yesterday, my 2017 Volt announced it was entering “fuel maintenance mode.” Fuel maintenance mode runs the internal combustion engine to take the gas tank to below 50% full. It will keep doing this, until the gas in the tank is diluted by adding new gasoline.

Today marked my 350th day or 50th week of not buying gasoline. I got in my Volt this morning and drove to work. When I stopped, at work, the drive summary display came up. Out of the approximately 15 miles I drove, 14.5 were on gasoline and the rest were electric. My MPG on gas was 46, better than the stated 42 MPG on the window sticker. However, the numbers told me some bad news. There was no way I was going to make it another two weeks without buying gasoline. The tank was going to be run to empty within six more round-trip commutes.

So, I drove to a Shell gas station, near work, and filled the gas tank. I realize I could have just put in three gallons, but my goal is to go as long as possible without having to go to a gas station. To do that, I have to start with a full tank.

And so it begins again… See you next year, Shell Oil! Maybe on the way home I’ll play a little Jackson Browne…

Things you may not know about the car business

Every day, I am surprised by car buyers. There is a huge lack of understanding about what goes on, during a car deal. Here are some of my observations:

Many people believe there’s always some more discount they’re not getting. I understand this. Every time I bought a vehicle, I always felt I had gotten ripped off, somewhere in the process. I didn’t know where it occurred, but it was my gut feeling. Even when I went to a dealership that advertised “No Haggle Pricing!” I just knew something didn’t work out in my favor. My feelings were justified, in some cases, and sometimes they weren’t.

Not to sound off for a competitor, but my 1992 Acura Integra GSR purchase experience was probably my best ever (at least, until I started selling them to myself). I bought one of the very last 1992s, after the 1993s had started shipping to dealers. It was a color I loved (a metallic turquiose), but was probably one for which most people would not have opted. The dealership was also a very good, customer-oriented dealership. A few months, after my purchase, the radiator hose blew. I called the dealer to see about having it towed in and the Service Manager came out to me, at the side of the road. They did not have the hose I needed, in stock, so he brought the closest thing they had and customized it on site, poured in some coolant and had me on my way! I will never forget that customer experience. If Acura had offered plug-in vehicles, when I was shopping for my first one, I would probably be driving one now.

prebuzz

1976, me and my maroon Monte Carlo. Yes, I had hair at one time…

I have definitely experienced this ripped off feeling myself. My very first new car purchase, when I was 18 years old, was a 1976 Chevrolet Monte Carlo (yes, I am that old). Just three exits from the dealership, it overheated. The thermostat was faulty, so the engine didn’t get enough coolant. After being repaired, the car always made a rattling noise, somewhere under the hood. I was told this was normal and was the “heat riser.” I swore to myself that I’d never buy another Chevy, for as long as I lived.

I know. I know. I’ve bought or leased 5 Chevy Volts so far and am now an EVangelist (EV specialist/salesperson) at a Chevy dealership. Sometimes we are confronted with something that makes us enjoy dining on crow…

But back to being ripped off…

I have seen people keep pushing for a lower price, when I know we’ve hit rock bottom. Sometimes, just to clear out old inventory that will soon have no manufacturer incentives, dealerships will sell below their actual cost. I’ve done this (with management approval, of course) and still the customer thinks there’s more discount available. They have even left, without buying, passing up an incredible deal. The pricing procedures in dealership sales is the reason for this distrust/misunderstanding. Manufacturers have incentives (discounts) that change monthly, in order to move inventory that isn’t currently moving. One day, I may have an unbelievably great deal, that is not available the next day. This really happens, but it makes people wonder if they’re being jacked with.

Many people do not understand basic math. I do not mean to sound harsh, but I’ve met people who don’t understand why we sometimes cannot get to the payment they want. I’ve spoken with people who start out wanting a $65K vehicles at a monthly payment, “no higher than $600 per month.” I’ll usually have to show them that their $65K vehicle, after Texas’ sales tax, is actually going to have a drive-out price of $69K. If we take that number and divide by 72 months (the usual finance term) we’d be at $958 per month…at zero percent interest. Occasionally, there are zero percent financing incentives, but usually this is not the case. A vehicle with a $600 per month payment would have to be priced at around $40K, before tax AND get zero percent financing, as well! Needless to say, it’s important to understand the customer’s expectations, before showing them a vehicle they cannot afford, but often they’ve been told, “Never let the salesperson know the payment you want.” These people (and their salesperson) get the bad news, only after wasting each others’ time, and for a commissioned salesperson, time actually IS money.

Some people don’t read or understand the contract they are signing. I have met people who have been trapped by less reputable dealers/finance companies. There were hidden fees they paid, usually due to poor credit, just to get their vehicle financed. They weren’t really hidden. They were in the contract, but were ignored because the customer had to have basic transportation, in order to keep their job. They were charged stunningly high interest rates but were unaware of it. They were only fixated on the payment. They just made a mistake, due to their circumstances, at the time of purchase. I’m proud to say my dealership only deals with reputable, non-predatory financing sources. I have had customers, crying at my desk, when they realize what happened, when they got their last vehicle. They were trapped in a crappy, unreliable car, because they still owed so much more than it was worth. I am happy to say I have been able to save some of these people. I did this by finding a new vehicle with enough incentives/discounts, from the manufacturer and the dealership, that I was able to get them out of the bad situation, into a much better one. It’s kind of a specialty of mine. Like many of the things I do at work, it is time-consuming, but helping a person out of a bad deal, creates a new client that won’t go anywhere else for a new vehicle, until they’ve come to see me.

Many people do not understand how commissioned sales works. Like the example above, people will drive to the dealership, when they have no intention/ability to purchase. They just want to check out cars as a diversion and have no intention of buying a vehicle for months, if not years. However, they want a salesperson to describe the differences between trim levels or between vehicles. They expect and deserve great customer service, and may buy eventually, so some salespeople (like me) will spend a great deal of time with them, while having to ignore other customers who may actually want to drive away in a new vehicle today. I have spoken with car salespeople who will be rude and say, “Come back when you’re ready to buy. You’re wasting my time.” This probably burns that customer for that dealership, even though, in some ways, the salesperson is justified in saying what they said. A commissioned salesperson makes zero income, unless they actually sell something. There is no minimum wage (other than zero) in this business. Imagine going to work and working hard, in the blazing sun or freezing wind, all day, only to end up making nothing for your efforts. That’s the life of a commissioned salesperson. I strive to give the best customer experience possible and spend a great amount of time with my customers, both before and after the sale is complete, hoping that they’ll recommend me to their family, friends and coworkers. I have even explained to clients that, as of the moment their sale was complete, I am effectively unemployed. They look shocked, thinking I have just been fired, but I explain that a salesperson is unemployed until they start their next successful car sale. The dealership and manufacturers track customer satisfaction, through surveys, so this is very important, to them as well. In fact, dealerships can earn extra cash from the manufacturer, if their customer satisfaction surveys are above a certain mark.

Another common problem, is the customer asking a second or third salesperson, at the same dealership, to show them a vehicle. The salesperson with which they’ve been working is out of pocket for a moment, perhaps finding a particular vehicle, putting their proposal paperwork together, locating a brochure, out to lunch or have the day off. The customer grabs the nearest warm body and asks to be helped. In the world of commission sales, the car deal’s commission is now split between the two salespeople. This hurts both the customer and salesperson. When a deal is split, the negotiating salesperson knows they’re going to make half the commission they normally would. Due to this, they are much more reluctant to discount the vehiclen as much as they would have, had the deal (and commission) been theirs alone. Who loses? Both the original salesperson and the customer!

As you may know, I once worked for Apple and got my customer service indoctrination there. People love going to the Apple Store just to hang out and check out the latest tech. Of course, Apple salespeople are not commissioned. They receive a salary for what they do. They’ll take home a check, whether you buy something or not. Many of them, like me, are tech nerds who absolutely love talking about their products. As long as they’re not overlooking customers who need help, their managers are happy to let them spend large amounts of time with their clientele. I have had that used against me, in plug-in vehicle sales. The client will spend a great deal of time with me, asking everything possible about the Bolt EV or Volt, only to buy from a dealer that is selling below cost, because that dealer doesn’t understand the product and has decided to cut their losses. The customer will then call me, after their purchase, asking more questions and for my advice on driving, chargers, etc. They found that the salesperson, who gave them such a great deal, was clueless, once the deal was done. In the past, I have reluctantly answered their questions, but have now decided I need to spend that time helping the people actually interested in buying from me.

Most people, even those who really appreciate great service, won’t return a satisfaction survey. A salesperson’s career can be made or destroyed by the customer satisfaction surveys. If an entire dealership’s average customer service index (CSI) falls below a level, set by the manufacturer, the dealership can lose bonuses and the salesperson can lose cash incentives, paid directly to them by the manufacturer. The customer receives a survey via email or traditional mail and sees it as junk mail. Most think it is worthless, both to themselves and to the salesperson/dealership. This is a failure of the salesperson. The salesperson should make sure the buyer knows the importance of this, but many are already looking over their customer’s shoulder for the next sale and just want the buyer to leave, in their new vehicle, to free them up to find the next buyer. There is a running joke, among my friends at work, about the time I spend teaching my customers about all the functions of their new vehicle. It definitely costs me, in that moment, because I miss potential sales. However, as the General Sales Manager here once told me, “You’re customers don’t just like you. They love you. I just want them to love you faster.” I have found that my time investment has several benefits: 1) My customers are very loyal, both to me and my dealership. Most tell me they won’t even shop at other dealers because they know I’ll treat them right. 2) My customers recommend me to their friends and family. When I started selling cars for a living, I thought it would take at least three years, before I got repeat business from a customer. As it turns out, I have many, many customers who have already bought multiple cars or trucks from me, although I’ve been in the business less than four years. In fact a few have bought four vehicles so far! I’ve also seen referrals from my customers generate multiple sales from their family members, friends and coworkers. This makes for a much easier, less adversarial, sale and my spending time with these referrals generates even more referrals. I believe this is the best way to grow my business and income. It is a longer road, although much more enjoyable, to success.

Some customers will become friends. This caught me completely by surprise. I’ve been invited to parties, out to have a few beers, to dinner, or to ride in a new vehicle they got from someone else (never something I could have sold them, of course…). The first time I realized we had more than a transaction between us was heartbreaking. A husband and wife came in to check out the 2SS Camaro. We had one on the showroom floor, so I opened it up to let them check it out. The man had a very difficult time getting into the Camaro. He had back issues and his wife has knee problems. They really had to struggle to get in. Once they had extricated themselves from the car, I told them about the Chevy SS four-door sports sedan, made in Australia. I showed it to them. They found it much easier to get into and out of. However, they had dreamed of the Camaro for years. I helped them configure one and they placed a factory order with me. I kept them apprised of their Camaro’s progress and texted them a photo of it as soon as it arrived. They were so happy and we all took pictures of each other around the car. When they stopped in to get their car serviced, they always came by my desk to say hi. Then one day, I saw on Facebook that the woman had passed away the night before. It felt like I had been stabbed, in the heart. That moment was when I knew I was making friends, not clients. Since then, I have made many friends here. We’ve gone out together. We’ve connected on Facebook, Twitter, Linked-In, etc. In fact, I recently sold the third vehicle to a couple of friends and we were all hugging, as we parted.

I love doing business this way.

Here are a few of my favorite customer comment cards my dealership has received, regarding my clients’ experiences with me:

comment 1comment 2

This one made my day (as you can well imagine):comment 3

This one caught my manager’s eye, so he called me into his office to show it to me. She has also generated two other Volt sales for me, in her family:comment 4

Obsession defined

Movie PosterIt’s a Sunday evening and I’m going through my iTunes movie library, looking for something fun, with which to wind down my day. I select The World’s End, a comedy/sci-fi romp in England and I kick back to enjoy it. It starts out as a comedy about old friends getting together to reenact a pub crawl, which they were unable to complete, in their younger days. It’s a really fun movie, so I’m going to try to not spoil it for you.

In an attempt to get in the spirit of the movie, I had a couple…okay three beers, as I watched. Not very long before the end of the film, two of the pub crawlers are lying among three identical, parked cars, when I yelled out, “Those are Amperas!!!” to my wife.

Imaging an eye roll here… Here’s what I spotted, in a split second:Charge Port & logo movieNotice the charg port on the right hand side of the images above and below…Charge Port movieThat’s when my wife really started to doubt my sanity…again. I started rewinding and replaying this short sequence in the film, to assure myself that I wasn’t crazy (while proving to my wife that I was). I noticed familiar tail lights…Tail lights movie

Tail lights website

from the Vauxhall Ampera website

…and wheels:Wheels movie

Wheels website

from the Motor Trend review

Finally, the conclusive piece of evidence came, during the film’s credits:VauxhallThen, of course, I ran to my study to write this blog post.

Perhaps I should buy my wife some perfume…obsession

 

Weighty matters

Greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel-powered vehicles is an abstract idea. We all know gases are very, very light. Hydrogen and helium are lighter than oxygen or nitrogen, but to most of us, they are just “air.” A column of air, as thick as the entire atmosphere, generates a pressure of about 14.7 pounds per square inch. But what’s it weigh? We don’t seem to notice it, bearing down on us, so we all think of it as being almost weightless.

Let’s quantify it a bit, to make it more ‘real.’

weight of co2 emissionsThe EPA has the equation shown above, posted on their website, to illustrate the weight of carbon dioxide generated by a theoretical average car that gets 21.6 miles per gallon (gasoline, not diesel, which generates even more CO2) by driving 11,400 miles.

4.7 metric tons. hmmmm…

One metric ton is 1.10231 US tons. (Don’t you love that we’re the only ones not using the metric system?) So, 4.7 metric tons is 5.18 US tons, or 10,360 pounds (5.18 X 2,000). How do we make that more real, in discussing air pollution? Well, what else out there weighs 5.18 tons?

Let’s use something we may be more familiar with than tons. The 2017 Chevy Suburban SUV has a curb weight of 5,704 pounds, or 2.85 tons. If an average car generates 5.18 tons of CO2 in a year that means the weight of the CO2 generated by this theoretical average car, driving an average number of miles is approximately 1.82 Chevy Suburbans!

Think about that, for a moment. Let it sink in.

For every single year that this average car is on the road, it puts out almost 2 Chevy Suburbans’ weight in CO2. Man, that’s heavy.

Enjoy your Sunday.scales of injustice

June 2017 Sales Numbers

June 2017 plug-in vehicle sales were evenly split, between those showing an increase in sales versus a decrease. June has always been a good month for me. Families have gotten through graduations, tax refunds have been received, vacations (when people would like a new, reliable vehicle) are coming up. So far this year has been very challenging, with regards to my sales. June was a huge success, with this June being the best June I’ve ever had. Hallelujah!!!

One exciting bit of news in June 2017 was Bolt EV and eAssist Silverado hybrid pickup arrivals began in Texas! This was a little over a month ahead of GM’s announced schedule for Bolt EV and none too early for those of us who transferred to the EV & Hybrid Sales Center at the dealership. Unfortunately, the luck of the draw failed me. Tim, another salesperson in Electric Avenue, had two of his Bolt EV orders arrive before any of my orders did. I was disappointed that one of my clients wasn’t the first one to receive a Bolt EV, but such is life. I ended up delivering my first two Bolt EVs on July 1st, in the pouring rain. We now have more Bolt EVs on site than any other dealer in Texas. In fact, more than twice as many!

Another June news item: The 2017 Volt model year, which lasted 1-1/2 calendar years, is coming to an end. I ordered a 2nd Volt for a client of mine (yes, they re-Volted), expecting it to be a 2017. Our Inventory Manager called me to let me know all Volt orders, starting with that one, will be for the 2018 model year (more on that, soon).

That particular Volt client is an interesting sales story. He and his family live in Midland, Texas, which is 320 miles away from my dealership. In March 2015, his daughter had called Chevy dealerships all around Texas, looking for a good deal on a Malibu. I won. She drove in, with her boyfriend, and we all had a GREAT time together. We had dinner, a few tequilas… Anyway, when she got home, she told her dad about me and said, “The next time you’re looking at new cars, you’ve got to go see Buzz!” In June of last year, her dad had become very interested in the Chevy Volt, after reading lots of articles about it. He mentioned this to his daughter and she told him, “You aren’t going to believe this, but that’s what Buzz and his wife both drive! He’s crazy about the Volt!” Her dad called me, ordered a Volt, in July, and picked it up in early September. He has been the only Volt client of mine to purchase the spare tire kit, because he didn’t want to have a potential blowout strand him on the long way home, in the West Texas heat. Recently, he and his wife ordered another Volt, which will be the first 2018, which I mentioned above.

June 2017 EV Sales Numbers

Here are the June 2017 sales figures, compared to the previous month:

  • Chevy Volt: DOWN 4% (1,745 vs. 1,817)
  • Chevy Bolt EV: UP 5% (1,642 vs. 1,566)
  • Nissan Leaf: UP 8% (1,506 vs. 1,392)
  • Plug-in Toyota Prius: DOWN 15% (1,619 vs. 1,908)
  • Tesla Model S: UP 45% (2,350 vs. 1,620) **estimated
  • Tesla Model X: UP 27% (2,200 vs. 1,730) **estimated
  • BMW i3: UP 12% (567 vs. 506)
  • Ford Fusion Energi: DOWN 29% (707 vs. 1,000)
  • Ford C-Max Energy: DOWN 1% (936 vs. 950)
  • Hyundai Ioniq Electric: DOWN 23% (58 vs. 75)

In June, the average price of gasoline was down 3% compared with the previous month, dropping steadily, throughout the month. It had dropped 2% during the month prior. This is not helpful for those of us selling plug-in vehicles!.

My Sales By WeekAs I mentioned earlier, June 2017 was my best June ever. In the graph above, the largest bar for June is red, representing June 2017. But notice its size, compared to all the other red bars for 2017. This shows exactly what kind of disaster 2017 has been for me, through May. I hope June is the start of business picking up…

My June sales were comprised of six Volts, three Malibus (no, not hybrids), a Tahoe and an Equinox. I did not sell a single Silverado pickup, so the Volt continues to be my most popular vehicle, pulling away from the pack.Buzz's Vehicle Sales By Model

Plug-in sales, compared to the same month a year ago, were also mixed evenly.

  • Chevy Volt: DOWN 10% (1,745 vs. 1,937)
  • Chevy Bolt EV: (was not available in June 2016)
  • Nissan Leaf: UP 37% (1,506 vs. 1,096)
  • Plug-in Toyota Prius: UP 14,618% (1,619 vs. 11) **previous generation Prius plug-in, dying out last June
  • Tesla Model S: DOWN 27% (2,350 vs. 3,700)
  • Tesla Model X: UP 3% (2,200 vs. 2,145)
  • BMW i3: DOWN 7% (567 vs. 608)
  • Ford Fusion Energi: DOWN 58% (707 vs. 1,700)
  • Ford C-Max Energi: UP 49% (936 vs. 630)
  • Hyundai Ioniq Electric: (was not available in June 2016)