MG Motor UK has rolled out new standards across its 92 locations to ensure it is ready for the brand's forthcoming ZS EV as well its long-term growth plan. The new standards affect not only physical infrastructure at its sites – such as charging points, it also applies to the training of staff from both a sales and aftersales point of view.
According to MG's Network Development Manager, Mark Hallam, the steps MG has taken were based on an assessment of the needs and requirements of customers. He said: “MG is looking at the total ownership experience and these new set of standards will give our customers total piece of mind that they will be fully supported by their local MG franchise dealer every step of the way. EVs often receive a lot of criticism due to a perceived lack of an adequate charging infrastructure, therefore the available information on charging points within our showrooms is particularly useful to debunk this myth and highlight their benefits.”
On a practical level, each dealership is set to be equipped with a wall-mounted 7kW charger in the workshop as well as a 22kW charger available for public use outside of the showroom. Part of this is simply for practical reasons of charging EV and PHEV stock. More importantly, it will work to demonstrate to prospective EV and PHEV customers the charging facilities they'll likely come across during ownership. Dealers will even welcome owners of EVs from other brands to use the chargers.
Alongside the charge points, dealership staff from both a sales and aftersales background will receive a nationally-recognised electric vehicle awareness course which MG is creating itself. This will cover off a general knowledge and understanding of EVs and PHEVs, as well as endowing them with an appreciation of the unique safety aspects when working on them.
Manufacturers are increasingly aware of the necessity to ensure their staff are trained properly to demonstrate and effectively sell their AFV ranges. However, you don't have to look to hard to find out that regardless of what their websites and literature say, dealer networks aren't universally up to the task.
Last year the University of Sussex joined forces with the University of Aahus to undertake a study into how dealers handle people's enquiries into EVs. Whilst the study didn't make its way to these shores, mystery shoppers on the continent found that dealers regularly tried to dissuade people from buying an EV with negative feedback or simply misinforming them. According to the study, in one dealership, a shopper was told not to purchase a particular EV because it will “ruin you financially” while another was told an electric vehicle “only goes 80 km”.
Experience by members of the Discover EV team isn’t dissimilar to those on the continent, with dealers frequently recommending a petrol or diesel variant over an EV or PHEV. And in these instances the dealer should have received manufacturer-mandated training. Further research by the team suggests this isn't always spreading through the networks either with one industry insider admitting that one of the main reasons their EV and PHEV model range doesn't sell better is quite simply due to a woefully ill-equipped dealer network. A fundamental lack of knowledge on subjects like charging systems was, apparently, the core issue.
There is a kick-back against poor dealer performance regarding EVs, and it comes in the form of a government-backed accreditation scheme. For those hoping to bridge that gap and make a difference to the consumer buying experience, dealerships can become 'Electric Vehicle Approved' if they demonstrate knowledge, capability and commitment when it comes to EVs through an auditing process. The scheme is backed by the National Franchised Dealers Association and the Energy Saving Trust.
Sue Robinson, NFDA director, said: “EVA will certify the efforts franchised retailers are making in the EV sector to meet the fast-growing consumer demand and will enable them to clearly communicate to their customers their expertise in the sector.”