Dealing With Dealers Down Under — Trying To Test Electric Cars


By David Waterworth

Before I bought my Tesla Model 3, I anticipated that I would inevitably be asked the question: why an unknown brand and not a more established brand like BMW, Renault, Hyundai, or Jaguar? I list these brands because that was the extent of available BEVs in Australia at that time. Plus, I was curious as to what was on offer.

The biggest contrast in dealer reactions was Hyundai. At this time, I was driving a Hyundai Sonata V6 and also owned a Hyundai Accent. My daughter was driving a diesel Hyundai Santa Fe. We had a great deal of experience and faith in the brand. My daughter took her car in for a service and I went to pick her up from the dealer so she could visit with us while the servicing was taking place. She was a little delayed, so I had some time to chat to the salespeople.

I walked into the showroom where three tall, well dressed men were chatting. As I approached, two men drifted away and left me with the chief salesman. I introduced myself, told him I wanted to buy a car and that I knew exactly what I wanted — the soon to be launched Ioniq. The dollar signs fell out of his eyes, his facial expression changed, and he assured me that his dealership would never sell electric cars.

Recently, at an Australian Electric Vehicle Association meetup, I got chatting to two Electric Kona owners and they told me they had the same experience at the same dealership. “Won’t be there in 5 years,” quipped one. Revenge of the Kona buyers — they went and bought from the second dealership.

I had the exact opposite at this second Hyundai dealership, where they had made the effort to train one of their staff to be the “expert.” He gave us a great deal of information and was enthusiastic about the car. However, he was honest enough to tell us that the vehicle available at that time would not make it up the highway, over the mountains, and all the way to Warwick (200 km) on one charge. We were also treated well by the Renault dealership, but their Zoe could not do what we needed either.

I was invited to the launch of the Jaguar I-PACE down in the Valley (where all the upmarket cars are sold — including Teslas). The catering was excellent and the conversation interesting (quite an impressive crowd). Most of the information was given by PR people backed by a technician. I booked a test drive.

The next morning, my wife and I met the smiling salesman and went for a very short drive. When I queried the minuscule time we got to spend in the car, I was told I could have a longer drive when I put down a deposit. The I-PACE was retailing for more than twice the price of the Tesla Model 3.

No wonder Kia, about to launch the new EV6 in the UK, has had two models air freighted into the country and is taking them around to all the dealers before it is launched.

They might have to do that in Australia as well.

David Waterworth is a retired teacher who divides his time between looking after his grandchildren and trying to make sure they have a planet to live on. He owns 50 shares of Tesla [NASDAQ:TSLA].


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