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Electric Cars and Local Auto Dealerships Go Hand-in-hand

Updated: Nov 9, 2021

By Robert Valenti and Jeff Aiosa

A nickname for Connecticut is the Land of Steady Habits. A recent decision by state regulators might help state residents kick a habit that’s more than 100 years old.

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.

Local dealerships are excited about EVs — and are all in when it comes to helping customers buy, maintain and service these new vehicles.

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.

But we’re a long way from reaching those goals. What’s stopping average drivers 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 ones.

Connecticut is addressing these concerns. The newly approved plan for building more charging stations will make owning an EV far more convenient.

And in June, Gov. Ned Lamont announced a significant update to the Connecticut Hydrogen and Electric Automobile Purchase Rebate, or CHEAPR, which includes more generous consumer rebates for a wide range of EVs. Initiatives like these can help speed EV adoption. But they’re insufficient on their own.

Local dealerships can catalyze the state’s efforts to get drivers to embrace eco-friendly vehicles. They’ve helped people find the car that suits their needs and budget for decades. 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 required some level of gasoline to run. Nine in 10 believe EVs have poor acceleration.

Local dealerships can help correct misconceptions like these and enable 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.

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 usually 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. In Connecticut, new car dealerships created more than 24,000 jobs last year. Many of those jobs offer good pay and benefits and opportunities for advancement — without the need for a four-year college degree.

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. They’re not just selling cars. They’re all in on the EV revolution.

Robert Valenti is president of the Valenti Family of Dealerships. Jeff Aiosa is president and owner of Mercedes-Benz of New London. This article originally appeared as an opinion piece in the Hartford Courant.

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