By David Kriete
Owning and operating an electric vehicle in Wisconsin is growing easier. The greater Madison area, for example, is home to one of the Midwest’s largest electric-vehicle charging station networks.
And the state is in line to receive up to $79 million for charging stations under the terms of legislation currently making its way through Congress.
Local dealerships are investing heavily in the infrastructure needed to sell and service electric vehicles as well. I own ten Mack and Volvo commercial truck dealerships throughout Wisconsin and am commencing on a near $1 million project to certify our facilities for electric vehicle service, storage, charging and more. I can assure you that Wisconsin and its dealer network is all-in on the electric vehicle movement.
Some electric vehicle manufacturers and state legislators want to change our state’s law to allow direct sales from manufacturers to consumers. But doing so would slow our transition to electric vehicles, and even harm the many consumers and communities that depend on a robust network of dealerships for economic opportunity.
Wisconsin is home to nearly 550 new-car and commercial truck dealerships that sell a wide variety of makes and models, including electric vehicles. It’s far more efficient for a manufacturer to provide electric vehicles to consumers through this dealer network. This sales model has been successful for about 100 years.
Then there’s everything that comes after the sale — most notably service and support. Electric vehicles are new enough that not every independent repair shop knows how to handle their aftermarket needs. Certified technicians at dealerships, however, are factory trained to service every model they sell. Dealerships invest millions of dollars in parts to mitigate downtime and ensure consumers are back on the road as soon as possible.
Manufacturers selling direct to Wisconsinites don’t have the desire or need to invest in a comprehensive service infrastructure.
Finally, distributing electric vehicles outside the dealer network would wreak havoc on the state’s economy. Local dealerships employ nearly 27,800 Wisconsinites directly and support the jobs of another 23,500 people indirectly. That is more jobs than the top five employers in Wisconsin combined.
The best way to boost electric vehicle adoption in Wisconsin isn’t to change our laws and bypass its dealership network. Rather, it’s to leverage it and its people to get these new cars and trucks on the road.
David Kriete is CEO of Kriete Truck Centers. This article first appeared in the Milwaukee Business Journal.