Electronics retailer Best Buy raised a few eyebrows when it began selling Brammo electric motorcycles alongside its flatscreens and Xboxes a few years back. Two years after that agreement was announced, however, Brammos are sold at only three West Coats Best Buys (one here in Portland, OR, two in California) and Brammo is expanding its own dealership network independently of the big box chain. Was Best Buy’s Brammo experiment a disappointment? If so, it’s not stopping the retailer from pursuing other electric vehicle opportunities, as Best Buy’s mobility and transportation honcho Chad Bell tells Automotive News [sub] that it’s talking to electric car firms about a possible retail deal.
We are having conversations with some of the startups. I would say the conversations are going well. We are very excited about several partnerships that we can’t talk about yet. We probably get more traffic in a weekend than some of these dealers do in a month. The benefits for a small automaker trying to cobble together a sales and service network are obvious.
And despite the emphasis on startups and his use of the term “cobble together,” Bell insists that electric mobility is a long-term strategy for Best Buy.
According to Bell, even business opportunities like contracts for special EV customer training for dealerships are a possibility. But the shape of EV dealership experiences is still unclear, as (for example) Tesla has insisted that it doesn’t need a widespread dealer network because EVs need “next to no maintenance.” But clearly EVs aren’t fundamentally different from gas-powered cars in their needs for a service network. For example Tesla has not been able to deploy a multi-speed EV transmission on its Roadster (in fact, Brammo just announced what appears to be the first geared electric vehicle
), and even its single-speed Roadster needs a $1,000 annual “tune up.”
As geared EVs become more common, their maintenance and service needs will likely increase, and doing without dealers will become less of an option. Whether Best Buy and its “Geek Squad” can step into that breach (let alone actually sellelectric cars) remains very much to be seen.