I sold electric cars for more than a decade. I'm frustrated that some dealers still don't have the right approach.

  • Nigel Zeid is a former Nissan EV specialist who now educates dealers about electric-car sales.

  • Dealerships often don't have the answers customers need about owning electric vehicles, Zeid said.

  • Here's what Zeid said you should expect when you shop for an EV, as told to Insider's reporter.

This as-told-to essay is based on a transcribed conversation with Nigel Zeid, a 65-year-old former Nissan EV specialist who works as an independent EV educator based in Boulder, Colorado. He spent more than a decade selling EVs at a Nissan dealership. He also spent a brief stint as a Tesla sales consultant.

Zeid travels and speaks to dealerships, salespeople, and others about the nuances of selling EVs. (There's a need for more and more EV sales education as automakers invest billions to electrify.) Zeid regularly speaks at major conferences, expos, and auto shows. He says car salespeople are not prepared to sell electric vehicles, which is a point of frustration and a barrier to adoption for car shoppers.

The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

This is why I'm so frustrated with automakers and the industry

We are at least 12 years into EVs. And for 12 years, I've been nagging people to do more outreach and education.

Automakers might do an advertisement that shows the car and says that it's the thing of the future, but they don't say a word about the car. These are teachable moments, but the automakers are so out of touch with what's going on and what people are actually saying.

The whole industry, the dealerships, the automakers, the salespeople — their job has been done by volunteers for at least the last decade with people like me coming with our own cars to talk to the public.

It's the 800-pound gorilla in the room

We have the cars. We have the charging. We have the batteries. We have the funding. We have the Inflation Reduction Act. But what about the people who are going to be educating an entire society?

I find that disconnect is the same disconnect that's been going on for years and years, and it doesn't seem to have changed.

There's so much to be done. It's a bit like standing inside a shaken snow globe.

Nigel Zeid holding up snacks while standing next to an electric vehicle that is charging in front of a 7 Eleven.
Zeid shows that EV drivers can juice up while grabbing a bite to eat at a rest stop on a longer drive.Nigel Zeid

It's a no-brainer for so many people to have electric cars — but we are still talking about the same questions that we were before

People want to know: What about the battery and where it comes from, and what about catching fire? And what about recycling?

They say, 'We're going to Costco, we are going to the dentist, and we might do a lot of trips in a day.' But no one's really doing much more than 50 miles, even 100 miles a day. If you have a car with a 250-mile range, you can go electric.

Nigel Zeid smiling while holding up a badge and standing at a table at an industry event.
Zeid spends his time speaking with industry stakeholders at major events and talking to dealership salespeople about EVs.Nigel Zeid

I still hear nightmare stories about salespeople

When someone goes into a dealership, they need to be greeted by salespeople who ask questions and don't try to sell immediately. We've got to slow that sale thing down. Because if we don't educate people properly about the car, we don't have a sale at all.

Maybe not at the dealerships in the middle of nowhere right now, but spokespeople at dealerships in major cities need to understand that they are at the core of this. Where do people get their information if they can't walk into a dealership and be told the basics of the car?

People need to come in to see someone that's truly confident and understands the nuances of EVs. I say, "You need to give your staff a car for the weekend, one at a time or two at a time, and let them have it for a whole weekend and learn what it feels like, not do a test online." Because they have a certificate that says, "I've passed without actually driving the car and plugging it in somewhere."

I recognize that not everyone's going to need this right now, but dealers happen to be born at this time and own a dealership at this time in our society when we are transitioning from one type of fuel source to another. Whether they like it or not, we're here.

Some red flags include having to be passed to another employee at a dealership or a lack of enthusiasm

If someone walks in and the salesperson goes, "I don't know much about it, but let me pass you on to this guy." Why is your whole staff not knowing this? Why is there one expert?

If a customer comes into a dealership and has just been to another dealership where they've either had an appalling experience or a truly fantastic experience, the salesperson is competing with this other dealership and perhaps another manufacturer. Many people who walk into dealerships are devastated by the lack of enthusiasm, knowledge, and excitement.

Nigel Zeid driving red electric convertible on an icy track in a snow-covered forest.
Zeid said prospective EV buyers should look out for red flags from dealerships.Nigel Zeid

The dealership should be able to address these questions — otherwise, you can choose where you want to take your business

Is there a car there? Where are their EVs parked? Are they charged when you get in there? Is the salesperson asking the right questions?

What do they know about EVs? Can they answer: Can I plug in at home or work? Can you educate me about how much it would cost in electricity? What's the size of the battery? How much is the battery? What would battery replacement look like, and cost?

If you go into an uneducated dealership, remember that there's more than one dealership to go to.

Here are some of the things car shoppers should know about EVs

The battery doesn't just get dumped in the trash after 10 years. It's used in second-life energy storage and gets sent to be recycled at places like Redwood Materials.

People always say, "I'm going to wait for the technology to change a bit." We've got batteries of 300 miles of range, and yes, it's going to get better, but how long do you wait before you get something? It's the same as with car motors. Yes, we'll get better types of motors, but there's nothing wrong with the ones we have now.

People talk about Chevrolet and their fires. There weren't even two dozen fires, and the carmaker replaced more than 200,000 batteries. There are thousands of gasoline car fires every year that no one talks about.

Read the original article on Business Insider