Colorado car dealer group opens EV, hybrid outlet and sees sales boost

Leaders at Colorado’s Phil Long Dealerships have seen consumer interest in electric vehicles grow and know the forecast from automakers is for many more EVs well into the future.

So they opted to convert a vacant site in Colorado Springs, Colo., near several of the group’s franchised dealerships, into a used-vehicle-only dealership focused exclusively on EVs and hybrids. And the venture has proved profitable.

“All that new product pipeline coming down the road really brought home to us that we’re living in a time right now where it’s the least amount of electric vehicles on the road right now for the rest of our lifetimes,” Kevin Shaughnessy, Phil Long’s vice president of dealer operations and partner, told Automotive News. “It’s going to continue. It’s only going to get bigger and bigger and bigger.”

The Phil Long EV Outlet opened in May 2021 and has expanded monthly sales, which now range between 18 and 22 vehicles a month, up from 12 to 15 in the store’s early months, said Peter Buckles, general manager of the store.

“Every month it seems like it goes up just a bit, especially since gas prices are on the rise,” he said. “It seems like there’s been more interest in electrical vehicles just in the past few months.”

The outlet’s inventory ranges from Tesla’s Model 3, Model S and Model X to the Ford Mustang Mach-E, BMW i3, Chevrolet Bolt EV and Nissan Leaf.

“One of the barriers for a lot of people is the price on EVs,” Shaughnessy said. “We noticed that there was a market for acquisition of EVs at a much lower price.”

Phil Long EV Outlet sold 117 electric and hybrid vehicles from May 2021 through year’s end and 56 such vehicles during the first three months of 2022. It’s just a small fraction of the company’s total sales. Phil Long Dealerships of Colorado Springs ranks No. 95 on Automotive News‘ list of the top 150 dealership groups based in the U.S., with retail sales of 10,801 new vehicles in 2021. The group sold 12,070 used vehicles last year.

Buckles said Phil Long EV Outlet is not only a one-stop shop for customers looking for EVs; it also has become a spot where EV drivers can recharge their vehicles for 20 cents a kilowatt-hour. The lot has 10 EV chargers, including four fast chargers.

Inside the store, those customers — some who find the chargers via navigation systems and hop off nearby I-25 — can grab a drink and relax, Buckles and Shaughnessy said.

“We built it different than a traditional used-car dealership,” Shaughnessy said. “It’s built more like a community lounge. It’s intended to be a place where customers can park their cars, charge them [and] hang out.”

The store last month held an Earth Day-focused event that Phil Long leaders planned to give community members test drives in EVs and more information about charging. The aim was that more information and exposure to EVs could ultimately drive shopper traffic to the store.

Buckles, who also oversees a nearby Kia dealership for the group, said Phil Long EV Outlet has three sales specialists and a sales manager. Service is available at the Kia dealership, he said.

Shaughnessy said he thinks the EV outlet is rare. “We might be the tip of the spear on this,” he said.

An estimated 20 percent of the store’s sales so far are to buyers who live outside of Colorado Springs, Buckles said.
“We’ve sold Teslas to people that actually live in Florida,” he said. “They’ll come out here, buy the car and drive it back.”

The store’s biggest challenge thus far, Shaughnessy said, is acquiring inventory.

Buckles said the dealership searches daily across the country for EVs to buy and has purchased vehicles from sellers in California, Florida and New York. He said he also buys EV trade-ins at wholesale from local dealerships and through the Phil Long network.

Shaughnessy, who drives a Mach-E, said Phil Long’s leaders think the EV outlet is capable of selling 50 vehicles a month.

“As we grow to that, then we’ll start looking at expanding, maybe adding a second location or relocating into a larger space,” he said.

The New 2022 Audi S8 Is a Luxury High-Performance Sedan

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Why Honda, Acura dealer showrooms may shrink

American Honda Motor Co. is reassessing how much brick-and-mortar space its dealers will really need in the future to sell vehicles in an era of smaller inventories and digital retail.

Automakers have been known to pressure their retailers to invest in bigger, flashier dealerships. But American Honda is wondering if its dealers might need some facility relief, triggered by the challenges riddling the automotive industry.

Honda is “re-looking at our facility requirements,” Dave Gardner, American Honda’s executive vice president for national operations and sales, told Automotive News.

He did not provide details of what the automaker is considering. But he asked: “To have the size of showrooms that can hold every make and model — is that really necessary going forward?”

Gardner acknowledged that auto retailing is changing in the aftermath of production shutdowns caused by COVID-19 and global supplier bottlenecks, coupled with an industrywide tilt toward online vehicle shopping.

Honda and Acura dealers have been coping with sales lots that have just single digits of days’ supply.

“I joined American Honda in May of 2020, and between our Honda and Acura brands, we had roughly 400,000 vehicles in dealer inventory,” Gardner said. “Today we’re sitting with about 25,000.”

The dealer networks have become more disciplined about selling into their pipelines to keep business moving forward, he said, and that means communicating production dates and estimated arrival times to their customers.

“These are things that in a 400,000-unit inventory environment we were not worried about, because every combination we built was somewhere sitting in a dealer’s inventory,” he said. But now, he said, having a robust 60- to 75-day supply is “a completely inefficient way to run our business.”

“We’re trying to be very cognizant of the dealer’s fixed costs as we move forward and not overburden them, perhaps as we historically may have done so,” Gardner said.

Also, there are benefits to running the business with a 30-day supply, or even 20. “Certainly we’re going to try to run the business with much lower inventory than we had,” he said.

Consumer demand for online car-shopping tools has signaled that a smaller physical footprint is feasible.

Gardner said Honda has observed an uptick in online engagement. Though a very small percentage of shoppers complete the full sales process in a digital environment, the amount of online activity customers participate in before completing the sale has increased, he said.

Another factor influencing the new thinking is the industry’s drift from gasoline-powered vehicles to all-electric. Honda Motor Co.’s lofty target to sell 800,000 electric vehicles in North America by 2030 will demand some facility changes. The company projects by 2040 it will sell only EVs in all regions. Gardner said Honda is being very pragmatic about how it will roll out changes.

“We’ve got just under 1,100 Honda dealers and 280 Acura dealers, and they’re not going to move at the same pace,” he said. “A dealer in California or a dealer in a ZEV state is going to move much quicker into the [EV transition].

“There will be areas of the country that will not come online with battery-electric vehicles for some time,” he said.

That shift also will trigger facility changes, Gardner said, but he did not share details.

Electric Chevrolet Corvette, 2022 Genesis G80 Sport, 2023 Acura Integra: The Week In Reverse

The electric Chevrolet Corvette became more than a myth, we drove the 2022 Genesis G80 Sport, and Acura announced 2023 Integra prices. It’s the Week in Reverse, right here at Motor Authority.

GM President Mark Reuss confirmed an electric Chevrolet Corvette is in the works. The executive noted that before the icon goes electric a hybrid model will arrive in 2023. Expect the hybrid to feature a V-8, and both electrified and electric Corvettes to feature all-wheel drive.

Our spy photographer spotted the 2024 Land Rover Range Rover Sport testing on public roads while wrapped in camouflage. The luxury SUV is set to debut on May 10 with evolutionary styling and upgraded technology.

We reviewed the 2022 Genesis G80 Sport. The Sport model’s return to the G80 lineup marks the introduction of rear-wheel steering to the luxury brand. The Sport is now the only way to get the twin-turbo V-6, and it features a sportier, more composed suspension.

The 2023 Mercedes-Benz AMG C 43 debuted online. Set to arrive in U.S. showrooms later this year, the latest C 43 model downsizes to four cylinders and features both an electrified turbocharger and a 48-volt mild-hybrid system.

Acura unveiled prices for the 2023 Integra. Set to arrive early this summer, the Integra will start at $31,895. A 6-speed manual transmission will be offered, but it will cost $36,895 for those who #GiveAShift.

Clinics In Ukrainian Towns Received Free Tesla Powerwalls, Solar Panels

Ukraine has set up new medical clinics to serve two of the small towns to the north of Kyiv, Borodyanka and Irpin, both of which have been heavily affected by the war. Now the country’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Digital Transformation, Mykhailo Fedorov, has confirmed that both will be equipped with Tesla Powerwalls and solar panels.

The Powerwall is basically a lithium ion battery with a capacity of 13.5 kWh, able to deliver up to 9.6 kW continuous power and keep an average home powered for up to 24 hours, according to Tesla. It can be used on its own, simply as a source of backup power, but if you also add solar panels into the mix, then it becomes a means to store solar energy and a way to feed electricity back into the grid.

 

In his tweet, Mykhailo Fedorov thanked Tesla and Elon Musk and posted photos of the destruction in the area where the new clinics were being set up, and one photo showing solar panels being unloaded out of a truck. No photos of the actual Powerwall batteries are shown, so we don’t know how many they may have installed per clinic – Tesla reportedly made an instructional video showing how everything is hooked up.

Elon Musk has helped the Ukrainians several times before, giving the country vital access to the internet through the high-speed Starlink system. The SpaceX-run satellite internet service is helping those parts of the country most affected by the conflict stay online and connected.

Tesla also made its Superchargers free for all electric vehicle users affected and displaced by the war into neighboring countries – this included some areas of Poland, Slovakia and Hungary, with the goal of helping them get out of harm’s way as quickly as possible. The five Supercharger stations in neighboring Romania were not used to give Ukrainian EV drivers the same privilege.

 

Free Supercharging was eventually expanded into all of Poland and Slovakia, since these were the countries that most Ukrainian EV drivers were routing through often on their way to a western European country.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky expressed his gratitude towards Elon Musk in a video conference held in early March. Zelensky even invited Musk to come visit his country and Musk said that he would come at some point and that he would like Space X to work with Ukraine on future space-related projects.