The Sierra Club’s new report “Rev Up Electric Vehicles: A Nationwide Study of the EV Shopping Experience,” shows that the U.S. auto industry is largely failing to meet consumer demand for electric vehicles (EVs) and automakers are greenwashing their commitments to curbing transportation emissions.
Based on surveys from 579 Sierra Club volunteers who called or visited 909 different auto dealerships and stores across all 50 states to inquire about EVs, the study found that dealerships and automakers have massive room for improvement to increase EV availability, make sure that EVs are prominently displayed and charged for test drives, and ensure that salespersons are offering important information upfront about charging, range, and consumer incentives like federal and state financial incentives.
The report reveals that 74% of auto dealerships nationwide aren’t selling electric vehicles. Furthermore, in 28% of dealerships visited, salespeople provided no information at all about how to charge an EV, and in 31% of dealerships visited, salespeople did not provide any information on state and federal incentives.
When volunteers asked to test drive an EV, the vehicle was insufficiently charged and unable to be driven 10% of the time. Of the dealerships that sold EVs, more than 66% did not display EVs prominently, with vehicles sometimes buried far in the back.
Among automakers, Tesla was reported as providing the best consumer shopping experience, with an average satisfaction score of 4.5 out of 5, and Chrysler was reported as providing the worst consumer shopping experience, with an average satisfaction score of 2.9 out of 5.
“The auto industry needs to end its greenwashing claim that it’s committed to an electric future when, in reality, automakers and dealerships are dragging their feet to offer consumers the electric vehicles they want and deserve. It’s past time for the auto industry to put some action behind its promises of progress and work to tackle emissions from transportation,” said Hieu Le, a campaign representative with the Sierra Club’s Clean Transportation for All campaign and the main author of the report.
Holly L., a volunteer that visited a Chevrolet dealership in Florida, reflected on her experience: “Oddly, the salesperson told me he loves gas cars, ‘The more gas the better, you will NEVER see EVs used for racing.’”
This report comes on the cusp of several automakers, including GM, Toyota, and Fiat-Chrysler, siding with the Trump Administration against strong clean car standards and zero emission vehicle (ZEV) standards, as well as recent analysis that shows that automakers are spending only a tiny fraction of their advertising dollars to promote electric vehicles while the bulk of their money goes toward boosting sales of gas-powered vehicles.
The report’s findings are a massive expansion of the Sierra Club’s original Rev Up EVs report released in 2016, which examined the shopping experience in the ten states that had adopted California’s Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) program. For both the 2016 multi-state report and the 2019 nationwide reports, volunteers were encouraged to either share with salespeople that they were taking a survey or not, depending on their preference. Some of the volunteer shoppers ended up buying or leasing an EV.
The full 2019 report can be found here. Besides volunteer testimonials, the report also includes data about EV inventory, EV placement on dealership lots, salesperson knowledge about EVs, regional comparisons, a ranking of automakers for best-to-worst EV shopping experience at dealerships, best practices for EV sales and policy recommendations, automaker advertising spending for EVs vs. gasoline-powered vehicles, and a list of dealerships visited to which our volunteers gave five-star ratings for their EV shopping experience.