By on November 1, 2018

National Automobile Dealers Association chairman Wes Lutz doesn’t have much time for critics who claim traditional car dealers don’t want to sell you an electric vehicle. As EVs boast fewer moving parts and lower running costs, green car advocates often say dealerships view the vehicles as a threat to a business model that relies heavily on service visits for profit.

Not so, says Lutz. The parts that do move are the ones they profit from.

Speaking at an Automotive Press Association event in Detroit, Lutz, who runs a Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram dealer in Jackson, Missouri, threw cold water on critics’ assertions, Wards Auto reports. Fiat Chrysler, of course, is not known for its love of electric vehicles.

“First off, I don’t make money on oil changes,” he said. “And these days, vehicle are going 7,500 miles between oil changes anyway. Try to make money selling $30 oil changes that cost $40 in goods, labor and overhead. Unfortunately, you can’t make that up in volume.”  

Continuing with his internal combustion tangent, Lutz said, “I haven’t made my living on engine or transmission work on vehicles I’ve sold new in more than a decade, and neither has any other franchised dealer.”

The revenue flowing into this store via the service shop comes mainly from tires, brakes, suspension work, alignments, and electrical work, he claimed — maintenance that’s unavoidable on electric vehicles. Nor does Lutz believe EVs have lower drivetrain maintenance costs compared to ICE cars, as he hasn’t seen any studies to back this up. “It sort of sounds true,” he admits. It’s still a fledgling market, and most owners of (until now) relatively low-ranged, non-Tesla EVs haven’t accumulated high mileage.

Still, battery degradation isn’t often talked about, mainly because instances of depleted packs are not as common as initially feared. Both the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Bolt carry eight-year, 100,000-mile warranties on their battery packs, with some differences between the two coverage plans. It will be interesting to see what widespread, long-term use of the larger-ranged second-gen Leaf and the Bolt leads to in terms of replacement rates.

If drivetrain maintenance costs for EVs are truly on par with ICE vehicles, dealers shouldn’t mind studies showing lower total cost of ownership for EV drivers. A 2017 British study (showing TOC of several vehicle types in California, Texas, and the UK) claims that, overall, maintenance costs are greater on an ICE vehicle, but those costs include oil and filter changes, coolant flushes, etc. They also take into account reduced brake wear due to regenerative braking. Newer electric vehicles seek to capitalize on this system, allowing drivers to slow — and even stop — the car by lifting off the accelerator.

That’s not good for service shop revenue, but a car’s brakes do not exist in a vacuum.

[Image: Electrify America/Plug in to the Present]

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13 Comments on “Dealer Association Chair: Relax, Critics – Electric Car Owners Still Have to Visit the Shop...”

  • avatar

    In the immortal words of Doug Niedermeyer… “REMAIN CALM! ALL IS WELL… ALL IS WELL!”

    Is Wes any relation to Bob?

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “Try to make money selling $30 oil changes that cost $40 in goods, labor and overhead”

    …says the car dealer who’s getting killed on every deal. Gimme a break.

    There are some high-mileage EVs out there, but most of them are early cars with the lame Leaf batteries or buggy Model S “milling” drivetrains whose issues have been worked out.

    About those 8-year battery warranties: They only promise that the pack will function; they do not promise a certain level of performance from it. I wonder what the range is on those first Leafs at this point, which are now close to 8 years old.

    However, my one data point was my 12 Leaf, which was the most reliable car I’ve ever had. All it needed in its first – and only – 3 years with me was a set of tires and a cabin filter.

  • avatar

    I’m not sure how valuable of an opinion Mr. Lutz has, being that FCA sells practically no EVs.

    I rotated the tires on my PHEV Fusion last week, and got a good look at the front brakes. After 59,000 mostly city miles, They look new. If Mr. Lutz is expecting much in the way of brake work out of hybrid or EV drivers I’m afraid he will be disappointed.

    • 0 avatar

      Our Fusion Hybrid (2010) went to the wrecking yard at ~145K with the original brakes that were still at 20-25%. (The reason it went to the wrecking yard was that it was totaled in a wreck.)

    • 0 avatar

      My Escape Hybrid needs brake work as often as a regular suv. But that’s because it is often driven down long steep descents on rough gravel roads. Like 4000′ vertical descents on roads where everyone else is using engine braking in low range. The Hybrid’s battery fills quickly so all braking is with the mechanical brakes. Have to go slow to avoid overheating them. It has a “low” gear but that only has an effect at highway speeds. I need to get a phev so I can regenerate all the way down.

  • avatar

    Well, Tesla ranked 27/29 on the last CR reliability study so there might be something to what this guy is saying.

    Even if the “powertrain” is perfectly reliable and the brakes last 150K manufacturers will figure out some way to muck it up with FALCON DOORS or something.

    • 0 avatar

      Just the Model X. And this has not been my experience with my Tesla, so I had to go to CR to see what they wrote. This is what they had to say about the X…

      “The electric-powered Model X is more showy than practical.”
      Says the publication that thinks the Camry is the epitome of automotive engineering. With the exception of the doors, it’s rather subdued.

      “It features rear doors that open up and out of the way, giving easy access to the second-row seats. But these massive doors take their time to open and close.”

      They do take longer than a conventionally hinged door, but are quicker than motorized sliding van doors.

      “The huge windshield extends up and over the front-seat occupants, making the cabin feel airy and futuristic.”


      “Buyers can opt for a five-, six-, or seven-passenger seating configuration, but unlike in every other SUV, the second row doesn’t fold if you have the two captain’s chairs, which compromises utility.”

      Deliberately misleading. The second rows fold in the standard five seater configuration. The second and third row configuration folds in the seven seater version. Only the second row in the optional six seater version doesn’t fold because they are captain’s chairs with a console in the middle. If you want lots of storage, get either of the other two seating configurations.

      “Getting into the third-row is complicated by having to motor the middle seats forward, but at least the resulting entry path is decently sized.”

      Again, misleading. This is only accurate if equipped with optional 2nd row captain chairs. In either of the other two configurations, the second row is manual and not motorized.

      “Like the S, the Model X is very quick and handles well. But ride comfort and noise isolation aren’t as good as in the S.”

      No kidding. The Model S is quieter than a Mercedes S class. The model X is still eerily quiet, even under fully acceleration.

      “The 90-kilowatt-hour version we tested had a realistic 230-mile range. Optional is Tesla’s Autopilot, which can add convenience but could potentially lull drivers into complacency.”

      Complacency? Where’s the quantitative data on this? There have been relatively few but well publicized collisions. No mention that the X is one of the safest vehicles on the market, third only to the S and the 3. I’m really not interested in the opinion of some random CR schmuck. This is incredibly amateurish reporting, and has nothing to do with what people consider to be “reliable” or not.

      • 0 avatar

        I think CR’s actual ratings come directly from the ownership surveys they send out not just “the opinion of some random CR schmuck”. They aren’t a “Bible” or anything, but I doubt a low/high rating is completely unjustified.

        Anyway, you might be happier here:

  • avatar

    THE Bob Lutz? Of the “failed GM” legacy? Please.

  • avatar

    This article needs editing. The store owned by Wes Lutz – Extreme- is located in Jackson, MICHIGAN, not MISSOURI. Thanks.

  • avatar

    My co-worker’s all electric Fiat 500E has locked him out of his car because the accessory battery died at just under 2 years, can’t get winter tires for his car because the wheels are a rare bolt pattern and the tires that came with the car are an uncommon tire size. It has spent its share of time in the shop for various electrical issues. But then, that’s not a “normal” electric car. It’s a Fiat.

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