By Mike Domenicone
Americans bought over 118,000 fully electric vehicles in the second quarter of 2021, according to a new analysis from Cox Automotive and Kelly Blue Book. And they purchased more than 250,000 hybrids. Electric vehicles now account for 8.5% of all U.S. auto sales, up from 4.2% a year ago. That share will no doubt increase, thanks to aggressive production goals from automobile manufacturers and initiatives like the new Georgia Electric Mobility and Innovation Alliance, which promises an "ongoing transition of the automotive industry" in the Peach State through enhanced infrastructure, workforce-programs and supply chains. Some electric vehicle manufacturers want to sell their cars directly to consumers rather than working through local dealerships. And they're pressuring Georgia's legislators to change the law to allow them to do so. That's not in consumers' interests. Local dealerships provide considerable value to consumers -- and their communities -- long after they drive their cars off the lot for the first time. Local dealerships don't just sell cars. They handle trade-ins, vehicle financing, titling, and registration all under one roof. They also let customers shop and test-drive multiple models at a single location. That's helpful, given that drivers have far more EV options to choose from. This year, 30 fully electric vehicle models are on the market, up from 17 last year. Then there's service. Dealerships offer follow-up service and repairs for as long as people own their vehicles, even if the manufacturer ceases production. I've experienced as much firsthand. I ran Georgia's only licensed dealership for Fisker Automotive, an electric vehicle start-up that went out of business in 2013. Even though the cars' warranties were void because of the bankruptcy, our dealership covered the costs of repairs out of our own pocket. More than 100 electric vehicle manufacturers are trying to come to market this year. Some will make it, and some won't. Consumers who purchase EVs direct from companies that go belly-up will have nowhere to go when they need service. Those who turn to local dealerships will be taken care of, even if the manufacturer of their EV isn't around anymore. Technology effectively allows people to buy direct from local dealerships. Some even offer "concierge" options, where a local dealer will deliver a new car to a buyer's home and take the old one away. As car companies invest huge sums in electric vehicles, their dealer networks are following suit. When Cadillac announced last year that it planned to go all-electric, the vast majority of Cadillac dealers quickly got on board, investing an average of $200,000 in new equipment, charging stations, tools to repair electric cars, and staff training. Finally, local dealerships are cornerstones of their communities. They employ more than 39,000 Georgians directly and support another 33,000 jobs indirectly at suppliers and other vendors. About 100 people work for our network of local dealerships, which is an active supporter of charities like Make-A-Wish Georgia and CURE Childhood Cancer. Cutting local dealerships out of the EV market by allowing direct sales would put these jobs at risk. To speed the transition to electric vehicles, Georgia's leaders should embrace and leverage the state's existing network of local dealerships, not scrap it. The direct-to-consumer approach may work for mattresses and razors. But EV buyers are better off when they're able to seek out the expert advice and commitment to long-term service that a local dealership can provide. By helping ensure that electric vehicle buyers have a positive sales and ownership experience, dealerships will surely accelerate America's adoption of electric vehicles. Mike Domenicone is owner-operator of Classic Cadillac, Classic Subaru, and Graham Automotive in Georgia. This article originally appeared in the Savannah Morning News.