But against a proliferation of new, EV-only brands, it's imperative that retailers and manufacturers team up, said Inder Dosanjh, chairman of the Cadillac National Dealer Council and CEO of Dosanjh Family Auto Group, which includes four Cadillac stores in the San Francisco Bay Area.
"There has to be adjustments," he said during the panel. "We have to work with the manufacturers at this point. It can't be them and us."
A healthy dealership network, said Dosanjh, is the advantage traditional brands have over EV specialists that use direct sales, such as Tesla, Lucid and Rivian.
While many consumers have a good impression of the Tesla brand, they don't necessarily prefer its consumer experience, said Mike Dovorany, vice president of automotive and mobility at Escalent, a market research company. He conducted a massive survey of likely future EV buyers about their ideal approach to buying and servicing vehicles.
"We actually took the elements of the Tesla approach and we sort of de-badged them," Dovorany said during an NADA Live session.
A major takeaway? The dealership model is a good one for mainstream consumers buying their first EV.
Consumers overwhelmingly said they like going to a dealership, having a human to interact with and not having to schedule service only through their phones, according to Escalent's research.
It "really had us kind of raise our hand and say, 'Hey, I know there's a lot of discussion about moving towards this sort of more Tesla-like approach, but when we talk to the consumers ... they're telling us that's not their ideal' " experience, Dovorany said.
Dealers don't need to panic about EVs, said retail analyst Glenn Mercer, but they better get ready to sell them.
Mercer, president of GM Automotive in Shaker Heights, Ohio, presented his latest "Dealership of Tomorrow" report in a workshop at the NADA Show.
The goal of the report was to stimulate long-term planning among dealers, and that's especially important when it comes to EVs, he said.