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CT Dealers Working to Put More Electric Vehicles on the Road

Updated: Jan 14, 2022

By Robert Valenti and Jeff Aiosa

It wasn’t long ago that electric vehicles seemed like novelty items. Now it’s clear that they are the future of automotive sales, and the key to Connecticut’s clean air goals.

Connecticut’s dealerships are essential to the mass adoption of EVs. All Connecticut new car dealers are fully committed to selling them; Volvo, Audi, Chevrolet, Ford, Mercedes, Nissan, and many other manufacturers have electric vehicles on the market. Customers are seeing that electric vehicles are reasonably priced, look good, are great for the environment, and can travel long distances.

State leaders have been laying the groundwork for broad EV adoption since at least 2013, when Connecticut joined what is now a nine-state agreement to deploy 3.3 million zero-emissions vehicles by 2025. Many automakers — from Ford to General Motors to Volkswagen — have plans to bring millions of EVs to market by then.

Connecticut’s Public Utilities Regulatory Authority approved a plan to blanket the state with charging stations for electric vehicles. That could make switching from gas-powered cars to EVs easier than ever.

But we’re a long way from reaching those goals. What’s stopping the average driver from making the switch? Among the top impediments are a lack of public charging stations and the high price of EVs relative to conventional gas-powered automobiles.

Dealers across Connecticut are investing millions of dollars in charging stations that are part of the charging infrastructure of our state. A number of these are super chargers, making the charging process fast and efficient. The chargers at the dealerships are open to the public, whether you purchased your car at that dealership or not, and the majority are also free.

Gov. Ned Lamont announced changes, which the new car dealerships supported, to the Connecticut Hydrogen and Electric Automobile Purchase Rebate program, or CHEAPR. These changes included raising the rebate for fully electric vehicles, adding incentives for new and used EV purchases, and increasing rebates for plug-in hybrids and fuel cell vehicles. There are now two new CHEAPR rebates, targeted exclusively toward people who participate in state or federal income qualified programs. Initiatives like these can help speed EV adoption. But they’re insufficient on their own.

It’s local dealerships that can catalyze the state’s efforts to get drivers to embrace eco-friendly vehicles. For decades they have helped people find the car that suits their needs and budget. Given how new and technologically advanced EVs are, the expert advice a dealer can offer is more important than ever.

Indeed, many Americans have limited knowledge of EVs. A survey conducted by Ford found that more than four in 10 people thought electric vehicles still require some level of gasoline to run. Nine in 10 believe EVs have poor acceleration.

Local dealerships continue to help correct misconceptions like these, allowing drivers to make informed buying decisions. Dealerships also make it much easier to finance and register new vehicles. Unlike direct sellers, they offer a wide range of EVs from different manufacturers. That stokes competition among EV makers, driving down prices and improving quality in the process. Consumers, meanwhile, benefit from having more choices.

Dealerships are in the business of customer service. Anticipating what our customers want and need, and continuously changing based on their feedback. Connecticut dealers can sell their product online, without the customer having to step foot in the store if that is what the customer wants.

Local dealerships really demonstrate their value in the EV market after someone drives the car off the lot. Whether they’re advising drivers on best practices for maintenance, informing them of a recall, finding a replacement part, or making repairs, dealerships mitigate a lot of the risk and uncertainty from the experience of owning an EV.

And with 250 dealerships across the state, consumers can find same-brand service by expert technicians within a short distance of their home or workplace.

Then there’s the important role local dealerships play in the economy. Connecticut dealerships employ mechanics, parts specialists, sales staff, front office staff, financial staff, community relations staff, human resource people, technicians, collision specialists, IT,

business and marketing positions, and administrative staff. Connecticut auto dealers offer competitive salaries, benefits, and job training. Dealers are linked to and support training programs at a wide variety of Connecticut technical schools that will continue to provide a pipeline to the technicians and mechanics who will be trained in the repair of EVs.

Connecticut’s leaders have set ambitious targets for EV adoption. The efforts of the state’s network of local dealerships will be crucial to meeting those targets. The new car dealers continue to be part of the answer.

Robert Valenti is president of the Valenti Family of Dealerships. Jeff Aiosa is president and owner of Mercedes-Benz of New London. This article first appeared in the Connecticut Post.

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