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VW will fund dealers to wage local marketing campaigns for EVs

Dealerships are often the weakest link in the EV marketing pipeline. An automaker can run flashy, expensive ads about EVs at the national level – but when consumers respond with a visit to a dealership, they too often get turned off by disinterested or ill-informed sales folks. Volkswagen is taking steps not only to avoid this problem but to fund EV dynamic marketing at the local level.

Volkswagen of America CEO Scott Keogh met with Volkswagen Dealer Advisory Council Chairman yesterday during the national convention of auto dealers. He said that VW will establish a joint marketing fund to support the ID Crozz EV:

“It’s intended to do things like dealer events, marketing, traditional marketing – any sort of outreach, anything –because we think a big component of this is to make sure that a dealer is marketing EVs locally, not just on the national stuff that we do.”

Keogh is ready to put cash into these campaigns. According to Automotive News, VW will match local marketing funds, maybe even supplying 75% of the resources, depending on the specific market. A cap could be established for each dealer.

This approach will be put to the test when Volkswagen introduces the ID Crozz (aka ID4) crossover EV late this year. The ID Crozz will sell in the low- to mid-$30,000 range after a $7,500 federal tax credit. It will optimistically offer “up to 300 miles” from its 83-kWh battery pack. The ID Crozz is expected to offer DC fast charging at 150 kilowatts.

VW ID Crozz

The specs are good. The design is attractive. The price is right. But VW needs to support its introduction with aggressive marketing, even at the local level. CEO Keogh said:

“This is a car that we want to sell in a very transparent, modern, omnichannel fashion. And we’ll make sure our dealers have the tools to do that.”

Based on the Automotive New Report, dealers are buying into the idea. VW Dealer Advisory Council Chairman John Luciano said dealers – even those were previously reluctant about EVs – are smelling an opportunity. Luciano believes dealers will jump at the chance to get matched funds for local marketing in a voluntary program.

“We had so many people that came up and said, ‘Wow, I was not in for any of this. Zero, not my market. Not my world.’ And now [they are saying] ‘I’m seeing that maybe instead I can own that market because I think everybody else around me [will be too cautious about taking a chance on BEVs].’”

US Volkswagen dealers will also get funding for 50% of the equipment needed to support EV efforts.

As we posted, Ford is also preparing its dealers to sell and service the Mustang Mach-E. While Ford appears to be preparing all 2,100 nationwide dealers for the Mach-E electric SUV, Volkswagen acknowledges that interest among its 650 US dealers will be varied.

Keogh said:

“We have a varied network, from dealers selling 2,000 cars a year to dealers doing 30,000 or 40,000 cars. We know that electrification is not going to be 100% equal in all markets.”

Luciano, the VW dealer-council chair, believes that fewer than 10% of Volkswagen dealers will completely sit out from offering the ID Crozz and other EVs.

VW ID Crozz

Electrek’s Take

The new wave of EVs, like the ID Crozz and Ford Mustang Mach-E, feels different from when legacy automakers previously offered electric cars. A comparison of long-range, ground-up SUVs with the compliance-oriented VW e-Golf and Ford Focus Electric reveals a big difference in strategy and commitment.

Volkswagen’s forethought on engaging dealers in local marketing campaigns also shows how automakers learned from the past. Big national branding exercises without local sales and marketing execution don’t maximize sales.

Now, VW, Ford, and others need to start delivering the vehicles. We can’t wait to see what happens when all the dots align – great EVs, attractive prices, and fully engaged dealers. That will be the true first test of mainstream electric-car appeal.

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Avatar for Bradley Berman Bradley Berman

Bradley writes about electric cars, autonomous vehicles, smart homes, and other tech that’s transforming society. He contributes to The New York Times, SAE International, Via magazine, Popular Mechanics, MIT Technology Review, and others.