Owners Tips

Is Your Dealer Ready for Your Plug-in Car?

If the latest trends, forecasts, surveys, and continual barrage of electrified vehicle news are any indication, more Canadians then ever are about to start buying more plug-in powered (aka, electrified) vehicles than ever.

We’re talking about plug-in hybrids (PHEV) and full electric vehicles (EV, or BEV for battery electric vehicle).

Using powertrains that are partially electrified (PHEV) or fully electric (EV), these rides use energy stored in on-board batteries to reduce or eliminate the vehicle’s use of gasoline. By many accounts, it’ll be difficult to find a non-plug-in vehicle in the coming years.

The PHEV will be the popular pick until more and more drivers eventually make the switch to full electric. Regular hybrids (which use self-charging batteries but can’t be plugged in) will become increasingly popular, too.

In an EV, all driving is on battery power. No gasoline is involved. There’s no fuel tank or engine or exhaust system.

In a PHEV, pure electric driving is possible for shorter distances. Once the battery is depleted, a conventional gasoline engine picks things up, enabling hundreds of kilometres of additional range.

Many PHEV drivers enjoy an emissions-free commute, but they’re still free to drive hundreds of kilometres whenever they like, without the need to recharge if that’s impossible or inconvenient.

More Canadians are becoming less apprehensive about all of this – but those entering the market in the near future may need to take some steps to ensure that their dealer is ready, too.

Sudbury is a Northern Ontario city, defined in no small part by its huge area and plenty of empty space. Getting from one of Sudbury’s communities to others can require a lengthy highway drive. Also, our winters tend to be cold and bitter.

For these reasons and others, EVs and PHEVs are not big sellers in locales like this. Some dealers have made the investment in the specialized equipment, training, and tools to service (or sell) electrified vehicles from their lineup; some have not.

In case you’re pondering an electric vehicle, we’ve asked all the major automakers who currently make EV and/or PHEV models for the Canadian market how ready their dealers are to sell and service them.

Here’s what they said. (A few manufacturers had yet to respond at time of writing; we’ll update this with their responses.)

BMW – Full plug-in coverage, approaching full EV coverage

If you’re considering a BMW EV or PHEV model, you’re in luck. Various EV and PHEV BMW’s are currently on offer from the luxury automaker, and more are in the works.

“By the end of 2020, we will have launched more than 10 new and upgraded electrified models,” a BMW spokesperson said – adding that five all-electric EV models will hit the market by 2021.

“All BMW retailers – 100 percent – are certified to sell and service BMW PHEV models. Presently, 33 of our 50 BMW retailers are certified to sell and service EV models, and the remaining 17 retailers will be certified by the end of 2019.”

BMW’s Mini brand also has 30 retailers in Canada, all of which are PHEV-certified. A fully electric Mini model is coming next year; all Mini retailers will be EV-certified as well by the time it arrives, according to BMW.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) – Full plug-in dealer coverage

Chrysler builds the family-friendly Pacifica PHEV – a plug-in hybrid powered minivan that’s one of the largest PHEVs on the road, and the recipient of numerous awards.

An FCA spokesperson told us that every Canadian FCA dealership can service this model.

Ford – Over half of dealers are EV / PHEV ready, more added weekly

At writing, Ford says that about half their Canadian dealers are EV/PHEV ready.

“Ford dealers need to be certified to sell and service electrified vehicles,” a Ford representative told us. “They need special tooling, as well as special training, to be able to work on those vehicles. Presently, we have 225 certified EV dealers in Canada out of 425 – and that number is growing each week.”

There are two Ford dealers in the Sudbury area, and one of those dealers is EV-ready. Results may vary, depending on where you live.

“Yes – a customer needs to make sure they have a dealer near them that is certified, even when buying a used vehicle,” our Ford Spokesperson added.

General Motors – Major routes first, full dealer coverage coming

A representative from General Motors, who sells models like the popular Bolt EV and Volt plug-in, explained how Canadian GM dealers are making the shift to an electric future:

“All of the major traffic routes across Canada have certified dealers in place. The vast majority in Ontario, Quebec and BC are certified, given that is where over 95 percent of Canadian EV consumer demand has been to date.

“Over the medium and longer term, based on our vision of an all-electric future and announcement of many more EV models to come by 2023, we would expect the number of certified dealers to dramatically increase. Soon, with our EV portfolio expanding, we would expect all dealers to be certified.”

Honda – Two-thirds of dealers are plug-in ready now

Are you after an electrified Honda, like the Clarity PHEV?

“Roughly two-thirds of Honda dealerships across Canada have invested in installing two Level 2 electric charging stations in order to service our current and future electrified fleet of vehicles,” says Honda’s Salil Kapoor, the product lead for Honda cars and alternative fuel vehicles.

“This investment ensures that the vast majority of our customers are able to purchase and have their electrified vehicle serviced at certified Honda dealers.”

Mitsubishi – Near-total EV / PHEV dealer coverage

Japanese automaker Mitsubishi lays claim to selling Canada’s most popular plug-in hybrid, the Outlander PHEV. This is a PHEV-powered version of the brand’s conventional Outlander crossover SUV.

“Most (88 of 93) of our dealerships are EV-certified,” a Mitsubishi spokesperson repoted.

“Our plan is to have all dealers certified, particularly as our flagship vehicle is Outlander PHEV, the top-selling plug-in hybrid in Canada. We have recently launched our new global store image program – and core to the design are elements that feature our commitment to electrified vehicles, from a halo over the latest electrified vehicle, to charging stations. The first dealership with the new global image, which opened recently, has 10 charging stations to support its business needs.”

Nissan – Strong EV dealer coverage that’s growing

Nissan builds the Leaf EV, which is one of the world’s most popular electric cars.

“Nissan has 121 electric-vehicle-certified dealerships across Canada,” said François Lefèvre, Nissan’s Chief Marketing Manager for Leaf.

“It is at the dealership’s discretion to become EV-certified. Nissan is fully committed to the EV segment, and we look forward to the gradual but imminent increase in the number of EV-certified dealerships in Canada.”

Volkswagen – Plug-in dealer readiness is ramping up

Currently, Volkswagen sells just a single plug-in model: the e-Golf. It’s a fully electric version of their popular compact car.

A VW spokesperson told us, “There are very unique requirements to sell and service EVs, which involve significant investment in training and certifying technicians, installation of chargers, new tools, and other infrastructure. Not all dealers can currently make this investment, as EV demand still forms a very small percentage of new car sales, and in some parts of the country is almost zero. As a result, not all of our dealers can presently sell and/or service EVs.

“Our EV network is currently comprised of 69 dealers (of a total of 142) who can both sell and service the e-Golf, with an additional 28-plus dealers capable of servicing the car (additional dealers are in process of becoming eligible). We have coverage in seven of ten Canadian provinces”.

But more electrification is coming, and VW dealers are gearing up.

“It is our expectation that, beginning with the arrival of our next generation of EVs in 2021, all of our dealers will become ‘EV Dealers’. Infrastructure and distribution parameters are presently under review by Volkswagen Canada.”

Volvo – Full plug-in coverage by all dealers

Swedish automaker Volvo has been making waves in the world of electrified motoring for some years. They don’t build a mass-market EV at the moment, though they offer four models with a PHEV driveline – a powerful gas-electric plug-in hybrid dubbed “T8 Twin Engine”.

A Volvo representative tells us, “all Volvo dealerships in Canada are certified to sell and service our plug-in hybrid T8 engine variant. Training is required as mandatory for servicing (PHEV) vehicles at all our dealerships. Volvo Cars’ plug-in hybrid Twin Engine technology has been added to every new model we have launched since 2014.”