‘You Never Need to Walk Into a Showroom’: Electric Vehicles Are Forcing Car Companies to Rethink Retail

For years, franchised dealers stocked endless rows of shiny cars with several models and hundreds of configurations. Dealers built community relationships, cities fought for their presence with the taxes they drew in paying for roads. But the high cost of maintaining large staffs and renting real estate has legacy companies looking at more showrooms and typical retail spaces — and even steering customers away from showrooms or service centers altogether.

Part of the reason dealerships made sense in the combustion engine age was they house massive service centers. But electric cars eliminate part of that need. They have fewer parts and don’t require regular tuneups. Plus, software can often be updated remotely.

The pandemic has made contactless purchases the norm. A number of electric car companies — including Tesla and Lucid — were already heading in that direction, featuring online ordering and small showrooms.

Now giant carmakers are following suit, bringing an end to an era.