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Tennessee’s Auto Industry Can Electrify State’s Roads

By Shannon Harper

Pretty soon, the only thing greener than Tennessee's forests might be its highways.

New investments are about to electrify Tennessee's booming automotive industry. Recently, Ford announced a $5.6 billion campus in Stanton, Tennessee, called Blue Oval City that will manufacture components for and assemble F-Series trucks. General Motors has announced that a $2.3 billion electric vehicle battery plant is coming to Spring Hill. And Volkswagen has plans to build electric vehicles at its facility in Chattanooga starting next year.

Nissan already makes its all-electric LEAF at its plant in Smyrna. So it’s clear that Tennessee is a national hub for EV manufacturing.

There are some 15,000 electric vehicles registered in Tennessee. That number will soon skyrocket, thanks to the efforts of the state's 300-plus new car dealerships, which are embracing the move to EVs wholeheartedly.

Electric vehicles today are every bit as durable and high-performing as their gas-powered cousins — sometimes even more so. Charging stations are proliferating. And local dealerships are investing significant sums in the infrastructure needed to sell and service EVs.

In other words, the environment for electric vehicles has never been more favorable. But making the switch to an EV can take some doing.

The purchase itself can include dealing with trade-ins, financing, registration, insurance policies and more. Then comes all the work associated with owning a car — namely maintenance and repairs.

Some folks have suggested getting rid of dealerships and having automakers sell direct. But no one is better equipped to help buyers purchase and maintain their new electric vehicles than local dealerships and their trained staff.

Our customers have told us as much. Recently, for example, one of my customers said that he ended up purchasing a Volkswagen ID4 electric vehicle because he knew there’d be an expert at our dealership whom he could call for advice or help with the car down the line. The fact that he had a local contact helped him take a leap of faith toward an EV.

Local dealerships are also best positioned to provide service for EVs after the sale. We’re already in nearly every community in Tennessee. And our technicians are trained to service every model they sell. That's especially important for EV buyers, as independent techs may not be familiar with electric drivetrains. Automakers and various levels of government have set aggressive goals for EV adoption. And Tennesseans are increasingly thinking about going green with their next vehicle purchase.

Tennessee’s network of local dealers — and the 20,000 people we employ — is ready, willing and able to help meet those goals, as well as consumers’ growing demand for electric vehicles.

Shannon Harper is president and dealer principal at Harper Auto Square, a 13-franchise dealership group in Knoxville. This article originally appeared in the Knoxville News Sentinel.

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