GM's strategy could decrease dealers' floorplan costs and allow retailers in markets that aren't ready for significant EV volume to use the lot space for bigger sellers. As customers increasingly show willingness to buy remotely without browsing in person or taking a test drive, dealers may have less need to keep a wide selection of every nameplate on-site. But some dealers worry the approach is another step toward the factory assuming too much control over retail operations.
"We evolved through the pandemic, and a lot of those services that were put into place are not going away," said Michelle Krebs, executive analyst at Autotrader. "Then we have an influx of EVs, which offers this opportunity to transform the retail experience."
GM plans to launch at least 30 EVs globally by mid-decade, including 20 in North America, and it's targeting a zero-emission lineup of light vehicles by 2035. As the automaker outlines significant EV promises, executives are calling for a change in the retail model to cut out unnecessary costs and improve customer experience.
At least initially, customers who want to purchase an electric GMC Hummer pickup or Cadillac Lyriq, both due within the next year, will make a reservation with GM before connecting with a dealership. The automaker has also launched a tool for dealers to more easily track inventory from the plant to their stores and plans to implement a Tekion-powered digital retail tool for EVs as soon as this summer.
The Bolt pools would push GM further into using its EV goals to reshape dealership operations within the limitations of state franchise laws.
The pools would be designed to provide dealers additional inventory options to meet EV demand and to increase delivery speed for the freshened Bolt EV and the new, larger Bolt EUV, both set to arrive at dealerships this summer, a Chevy spokeswoman told Automotive News. There are no firm plans for EV pools yet, she added, but GM is considering running a regional pilot with the Bolts toward the end of this year.
"EV inventory pools are just one of the ideas we're investigating, working closely with our dealer councils, to support the expansion of EVs," she said.
Chevy hinted at the idea of such pools during a dealer meeting this month to go over the details of the 2022 Bolt launches and to announce the new digital retail platform for EVs.
"They're serious. They're jumping in with both feet," said Al Corazza, general manager of Fairway Chevrolet in Hazle Township, Pa. "They want somebody to be able to buy an electric car online from a Chevy dealer."