Maine auto dealer Adam Lee believes the rapid adoption of cellphones occurred because they filled a void for consumers.
Stellantis is hoping for a similarly robust buy-in from customers to help meet its goal of having electrified vehicles account for more than 40 percent of U.S. sales by 2030.
But Lee doesn't see the same need for plug-in vehicles as there was for phones, so he's skeptical that the automaker can hit its target.
"We didn't realize how convenient it would be to have a phone, which is like your computer in your pocket," Lee, chairman of Lee Auto Malls group, told Automotive News. "Well, we have cars. It's not like we don't have cars and suddenly they invented the electric car."
Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares said the global response to EVs will be influenced by regulations and that public opinion could shift as people become more sensitive to climate change and how to fix it. Tavares said training dealerships on how to sell electric vehicles in the years ahead will be important to the automaker reaching its EV sales target, but retailers such as Lee aren't sure they can get there.
Lee, who has two Stellantis stores, believes in the technology and has been a Tesla owner for seven years. Long term, he said, people will see the benefits of battery-electric vehicles, in particular, because of lower operating costs. No engine means no oil changes or other related upkeep, and electricity generally is less expensive than gasoline.
He just doesn't think the market is ready to tip as heavily toward electrification as Stellantis is aiming for. It's a steep slope, he said, made more difficult by the fact that the former Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is known for its Jeep crossovers and Ram trucks, not low-emissions vehicles.
Scott Ritter, general manager of Planet Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram in Miami, shared Lee's skepticism.
"It is not realistic," Ritter said. "Obviously, there is a lot of attention on the subject and all of the OEMs want to seem on board and proactive, but EVs have their own practical and environmental challenges."