The autumn issue of NFDA’s quarterly magazine, The Voice, featured an exclusive interview with Glyn Hopkin Operations Director, Stuart Hodson.

Stuart Hodson joined Glyn Hopkin in 1993 after his A levels 26 years ago and he has never looked back. Over the past years, he has come across a number of challenges and changes in the automotive sector. In 2017, he won the prestigious Nissan EV CEO award, where Glyn Hopkin was one of just 25 in the world to be recognised for their success in EV sales. Today, he does not see the move from internal combustion engines to electric as a disruptor and he sounds optimistic about 2020.

What are consumer attitudes towards electric cars?

“There is a growing natural customer demand now. Based on what our customers say consumers are very ready for what‘s available now and are almost hungry for what’s coming next year. The process customers go through is still broadly the same, however, they tend to ask more questions and need more information to reinforce the decision they are making to switch to an EV”.

Are supply constraints still a significant issue?

“It is improving slightly; I think 2020 is the year we are expecting to see levels of supply in line with demand”.

How important is the role of dealers during this period of transition?

“If you asked five years ago where the traditional dealership would be today, a lot of people would have said customers would buy online and dealers would struggle to survive. However, the evolution into firstly hybrids and then EVs has made the customers much more likely now to go to a dealer to have all the necessary information explained to them. Whereas if it had just carried on as petrol and diesel, people would have been much more comfortable to just buy online. Now consumers are well informed as they do a lot of research online. However, they look for reassurance and feedback from dealers as well as a competent demonstration of the product they are considering.

The new technology is driving people back into the dealerships”.

What is the biggest challenge for consumers?

“There is a core of people that are not even close to considering it. They have already made a decision in their mind that an EV isn’t for them. I think that’s the biggest obstacle to overcome. Especially when an EV suits their lifestyle and driving habits”.

In our latest Consumer Attitude Survey, 51% of respondents indicated battery range as a major barrier to EV purchase, but the average distance travelled by people in the UK is much less than what people perceive. Do you see this happening also with your customers?

“Yes, 60% of our customers could probably manage quite happily with an EV but only 5% or 6% are buying them. We use this as an example to our customers: we get a lot of people from Holland who arrive on a ferry to Harwich. Our Colchester dealership is about a first-generation Nissan Leaf charge distance from Harwich. They usually come in, charge and carry on to London”.

Glyn Hopkin Nissan St Albans was one of the first 30 dealer groups involved in the pilot phase of the Electric Vehicle Approved (EVA) accreditation scheme developed by NFDA. Following the success of the pilot phase, the scheme was officially launched in May. Stuart is a member of the EVA steering group and his role has been instrumental to the development of the scheme.

What are the benefits of EVA?

“I think the scheme benefits not only franchised dealers but also those retailers that have less or no interactions with manufacturers. EVA will help bring everyone up to a good level of knowledge on EVs which is very important for the growth of the sector.

A lot of customers start their journey looking at a three or four years old used car and then they end up moving into main dealer territory where they look at the latest cars. For this reason, you need high levels of knowledge across the industry. Customers must get the right level of expertise and experience on EVs from the beginning to the end of their buying and ownership journey”.

Read the full interview in The Voice