Electric Road Trip

EVs and the chicken-and-egg problem

ARLINGTON, Texas — The signs at the car dealerships along East Division Street tell the story.

"We finance." "Buy here, pay here." "All cars sold as-is."

The dealers are along both sides of a half-mile stretch of the old Dallas-to-Fort Worth highway, around the corner from the Dallas Cowboys' football stadium. They're geared toward people with less-than-stellar credit. Sometimes people are looking for a cheap second car, or something to use for a side job at a ride-hailing company.

Electric cars will have to crack markets like this. By some estimates, nearly two-thirds of U.S. auto sales are used cars and trucks. Lots of them are sold to so-called subprime buyers who can't pay full price or need unconventional credit and payment plans.

Advocates of battery-powered cars say they're surprisingly cheap on the used market. But they're hard to find among the thousands of cars, trucks and SUVs that pack the showrooms and uneven blacktop along East Division.

In two years, Julia Rovdo, finance manager at ICars Auto Sales, said she's sold two electric vehicles.

"They were not the typical customer who comes here," Rovdo said.

Inventory at these dealers tends to comes from auction houses, along with trade-ins and other cars the bigger dealers don't want.

Like a lot of dealers, Galaxy Auto Sales frequently has its mechanic make minor repairs to cars before they're resold, said Tommy "Trey" Hudson, the sales manager.

"He's really good, but I don't know how much experience he's got" with battery-powered cars, he said.

There's also the chicken-and-egg economics of the car business. If customers ask for electric vehicles, Hudson said, the dealers will start buying and reselling them.

"Right now, it's such a niche, they don't want to take a risk on it," he said.

Electric Road Trip

E&E News reporters take a 6,000-mile road trip in an electric vehicle to explore how the switch from gas to electric transportation will change the economy, environment and daily life of America.
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