EDITOR’S NOTE: John Rooney is the co-founder of Elevation Proving Grounds (EPG), a company that helps electric and autonomous vehicle companies develop better automotive technology through vehicle testing, staffing and training. You can find out more about EPG and contact us at EPGAmerica.com.
We are all used to the process of buying a car from a dealership. Maybe you do an online search first and narrow down the selection. Once you’ve found a vehicle you like, you head to the dealership to check it out in person. Seconds after setting foot on the property, you are greeted by someone and begin the typical car buying song and dance. Maybe all you want to do is test drive the car, but it always comes with a calculated process. I wanted to test a particular new electric vehicle (EV) so I documented what it looked like in today’s world.
“Come in and sit down. “Do you want a drink or maybe a snack?” “What is your price range?” “Are you looking to pay cash or finance? “What kind of car do you have now?” »« Did you want to trade in your current vehicle? Phrases you used to hear until you finally surrendered your driver’s license, signed a waiver, and then they brought the car to you. You take a seat in the driver’s seat, your partner in the passenger seat and the salesperson in the back seat. You take a 15-20 minute test drive where the salesperson reviews the vehicle’s features and you do your best to determine if this is the car for you during that short period. You go back to the dealership and that’s when they try to close the deal. Maybe they bring the manager to greet you. Maybe they’re trying to get you to look at another vehicle. There is a lot of pressure and it is not always the most pleasant experience.
Then COVID-19 came along and created social distancing. There have been a lot of negatives that have come with COVID, but let’s talk about one of the positives, testing how to drive a car. Last weekend I experienced what it is like to try an electric vehicle in this environment, and maybe what the test drive and buying at the future.
It all started by going to the OEM website and following the instructions to set up a test drive. I filled in the desired day and time, then I waited. A few days later, a dealership representative contacted to finalize the appointment. After that they requested an electronic signature on a short one page release form and an electronic copy of my driver’s license. I was ready for the test drive on Saturday.
The weekend arrived and my brother and I went to the dealership for a test drive at 1:00 p.m. When we arrived, we walked to the building with our masks on. We waited for a representative to come out of the building to greet us. Meanwhile, a family with masks was also preparing for a test drive. They were about to get into one of the vehicles when someone from the dealership rushed over to tell them that this specific car had not been disinfected in the previous test drive. They then disinfected the vehicle and the family left. A somewhat surreal scene to see unfold, but which is too common today.
Matt, our rep, greeted us outside, gave us some instructions, and said “the key is in the car” as he returned us on our own. The test drive was only supposed to last an hour, but the rep suggested that there was some flexibility in that and we did not discuss. We had the freedom to test the capabilities and functionality of the electric vehicle without any pressure from a salesperson. This allowed us to test what was important to us: the performance, handling and advanced technological characteristics of this specific EV. It was great.
After about an hour and a half on the road, we got a text from Matt saying it was time to go home. We arrived at the dealership 30 minutes later, parked the electric vehicle, then headed to our personal cars. Matt met us as we walked away and thought we were about to get the full press on buying the car. It didn’t happen, he just wanted to ask how it was and see if we had any further questions. We chatted a bit from a distance, then left, seriously considering our next vehicle purchase.
Like many people, I don’t like the stress of the typical car dealership sales process. It was different, it was a pleasant and fun experience. Hopefully dealers will take note of this and incorporate this into their sales process when we get past this pandemic. I am strongly considering purchasing this specific electric vehicle and look forward to my next dealership experience.