Electric car sales are surging around the world. But because of supply chain shortages, it’s getting harder and harder to get one — not just for regular people, but for dealerships as well. According to a recent survey, 66% of car dealers in the US didn’t have an EV on their lot to sell. But even if they could get their hands on EVs, about half of them wouldn’t want to sell them.
Electric cars are becoming more and more common around the world. A part of that is that they’re getting cheaper. Another part is regulation — municipalities and countries are tightening legislation to clean up the cars on the streets. Lastly, convenience also plays a role. The more common EVs become, the more chargers there are around towns and highways — and the easier it is to charge your car. The pandemic has also been great for the sale of electric cars, but the supply issues that emerged because of the pandemic were less great. In many parts of the world, you wait for months to get an electric car. But in the US, it can be even worse: you may simply not find an electric car at your local dealership.
Every year since 2019, Sierra Club, an American environmental organization, has produced a report that tracks the adoption of electric cars in the US. They contacted over 800 dealerships nationwide, covering 18 brands that sell both electric and non-electric cars. They asked them whether they had EVs and stock, and if they didn’t, would they like to have them?
Strikingly, 66% of car dealers surveyed didn’t have an EV on their lot to sell. Out of these 66%, just under half wished they did. They mentioned how customers had to order vehicles and waited for months on end to receive them. This scarcity was somewhat expected due to market shortage. But the other half’s response was more surprising.
Basically, many dealers who didn’t have EVs also didn’t want them. From all the surveyed dealerships, some 30% said they would “not offer an EV for sale regardless of automaker allocation and supply chain constraints,” for various reasons. Some said they’ll get to it someday, others were put off by the need to install charging stations or get EV certifications for their technicians, while others said they just don’t want to.
The West Coast had the least inventory of EVs in the US. This is partially linked to the larger number of sales in the area but remarkably, a large proportion of car dealers in California also don’t want to sell EVs.
“We found that only 19 percent of dealerships surveyed in California had an available EV for sale,” the report reads. “Of the 81 percent of dealerships that did not have an available EV for sale, 47 percent indicated they would if it weren’t for inventory or supply chain issues, while 50 percent indicated they wouldn’t sell EVs regardless.” In 2022, 20% of the cars sold in California were electric. The state also sold 33% of the EVs sold nationwide.
Similarly, cheaper EVs were less often in stock, presumably because they’re more sought after. Dealerships that did stock EVs tended to have more expensive cars that sold less.
It’s surprising just how unavailable EVs are at US dealerships. Particularly since President Biden has signed legislation that invests billions in EV charging infrastructure and helps make EVs more accessible. If EVs are to become more common in the country, making their sale more accessible is pretty important.
The situation also gets murkier politically. “We need to install chargers first before the automaker can send us EVs to sell,” a Chevrolet dealership in Wyoming said in the survey. But in Wyoming, Republican lawmakers are trying to ban EV sales; yes, really. Dealers may be taking a hint and may be lowkey waiting to see how the anti-EV movement plays out before they fill out their inventory.
The industry, of course, has other major challenges. The shortage of EV batteries is one of the auto industry’s major challenges for future growth. But if dealers can’t sell (or don’t want to sell) EVs, that spells pretty bad news for the industry.