Electric car is a new animal for dealership operations

Getting a dealership ready to sell electric vehicles takes a different mind-set, said Jay Carley Jr., general manager and executive partner at ABC Nissan in Phoenix.

“It’s a completely different animal than a normal vehicle,” Carley said. “You can’t even sell oil changes because there is no oil.”

Carley knows firsthand. His dealership last month delivered the first Nissan Leaf to a customer in Arizona. That oil change matter caused a few laughs during the delivery process when the finance manager, momentarily forgetting about the lack of oil, asked the buyer whether he was interested in a maintenance plan for the car.

With the recent debut of the Leaf and the Chevrolet Volt and the electric Ford Focus coming later this year, lots of dealerships are looking at what it will take to sell alternative powertrain vehicles. Planning ahead and training staff are the keys to making a smooth transition, Carley told me.

Per Nissan’s requirements, ABC Nissan installed four charging stations, bought special service tools and sent two mechanics, the service director and two salespeople for training on the Leaf. Carley estimated the dealership’s investment in selling the Leaf at around $40,000. He considers it an investment in the future of technology.

“We’ll get it all back,” Carley said, when the Leaf “is out in mass production for the public in April or May.”