An opinion piece posted on Forbes last night focuses on two dealer experiences in Southeastern Pennsylvania – one a brand-new Tesla store, the other a nearby Chevy dealer with a single Volt on the lot and apparently not a lot of motivation for the EREV.


 
The piece, written by Brooke Crothers, seems to play on the known complaints about Chevy dealers and GM’s marketing support, or lack thereof for the outgoing Volt. To be sure, we've heard miscellaneous issues about how unmotivated some dealers may be while others are more motivated.

Nor is a single visit to a single dealership a scientific experiment when over 2,000 dealers across the country sell Volts, but Crothers used the article as a platform to say something about how the factory run Tesla experience was versus the independent Chevy dealer.

The Tesla dealer and service center is in Devon, Pa on Lancaster Ave. I know where this store is, it’s near to me, used to be a Toyota dealer, there's other car dealers – including Nissan, Volvo, Mercedes – along this strip, and it's actually strikingly close to the King of Prussia Tesla store in the mall several miles away.

I could guess the Chevy dealer is one a few miles west on Lancaster Pike in Paoli, and the “Main Line” region – which this is the western edge of – contains Pennsylvania’s highest per capita earners closer to the city of Philadelphia. Where the stores are is a relatively upper to upscale area. Tesla has only two dealers in the state, and they're both within 8 miles of each other showing how focused Tesla is on this region.

As for the article, the verdict on the Chevy dealer: If this is an indicator of how GM’s independent franchised dealers work, the Gen 2 Volt may be in trouble.


Are many Chevy dealers becoming primarily truck dealers? That’s my question. The impression I got at this Chevy dealer was that it was fundamentally a Silverado and truck dealer, with some sedans and Corvettes (as a showroom conversation piece) to sell on the side. And I’ve seen this at other Chevy dealers – many shadowed by a phalanx of pickups — despite having respectable sedans like the new Malibu. And, of course, the Volt.

There was one Volt on the lot. I repeat, one. Off in the corner and almost impossible to find. And, needless to say, none in the showroom. That sends a really bad message, in my opinion. One of the best cars General MotorsGM -0.99%has ever made and it’s almost invisible.

(In the spirit of full disclosure, I drive a Chevy Volt. And it’s the best car I’ve ever had, hands down.)
 

A Chevy salesman at the un-named dealer said GM will renew its marketing efforts for the Volt later this year.


 
But I wonder. And my father (who is planning to buy a Volt) was disappointed. His question to the salesman was, are you really interested in selling the car? And if you’re not (based on the empirical evidence) then I’m worried about buying one.

I explained that the dealer experience for Volts in southeastern Pennsylvania was different than the experience in Los Angeles (where I got my Volt). My local Los Angeles dealer has lots of Volts on the lot and is one of the biggest Volt dealers (in terms of sales volume) in the U.S. But the problem with that argument is that my local Chevy dealer seems to be the exception. My guess is that there are many more Chevy dealers like the one we visited near Devon, Pa. and relatively few like my local dealer in Los Angeles.
 
In contrast, the Tesla store was great. A service technician was just as good to talk to as would have been a regular sales person.
In a word, clean. The best way to describe a Tesla dealer/service center is that the service center is as pristine as the showroom. In fact, you could almost mistake the service area for a showroom it’s so clean and uncluttered.

With that in mind, instead of talking to a salesperson, I buttonholed a guy in service. He sounded more like an engineer than a service guy. He described maintenance like he was fine tuning a corporate server, not a car.

And it’s no mystery why the service center is so pristine. Like most electric cars, a Model S is really a computer on wheels and lacks many of the dirty, wear-prone components that plague gasoline cars.
The net result of this one-off snapshot may be just to conspicuously shame GM, or if that’s too harsh, at least to raise awareness, if that is phrased politely enough.


 
Let’s hope GM changes its marketing ways. If dealers are going to continue to make Corvettes (the past) the marquee feature in showrooms while relegating the Volt (the future – or at least a car that hints at a different future) to the backlot, things won’t turn out well for GM vis-à-vis its arch-nemesis Toyota. ... Message to GM dealers: At least pretend to compete with Tesla. My impression of the Chevy dealer I visited was that it had no interest in competing with (or little cognizance of) the Tesla dealer down the street, despite having a stellar alternative to the Tesla that is, by the way, about $35,000 to $40,000 dollars cheaper (or more) than the all-electric.
 
For what it was worth, that was the story – which you can read here .

What do you think? Is this a typical experience? Does GM deserve this kind of spotlight? The writer does say his local dealer is better.

But GM needs good service everywhere is the message, and, "My guess is that there are many more Chevy dealers like the one we visited near Devon, Pa. and relatively few like my local dealer in Los Angeles," said Crothers.

"The Silverado is a great pickup and the Corvette is a world-class sports car but neither of those vehicles speak to the future of the automobile," writes Crothers. "And certainly don’t speak to the millions of Americans (like my father) interested in cars like the Volt."