No Dealer Buyouts for EV Chevy: Scott Bell

Scott Bell says he won’t pursue Buick and Cadillac to offer franchise dealers an alternative to EVs. Instead, the dealers select to take buyouts from Cadillac, and Buick could end up solely selling Chevy vehicles, which Bell claims is appropriate for his brand.

Scott Bell, global vice president, said that Chevrolet wouldn’t heed its sister brands Cadillac and Buick in proposing buyouts to dealers who don’t like to make the required investments to upgrade to electric vehicles.

“The minute they pull back and say, ‘You know what, I’m not ready to go all in for those brands,’ they’re currently 100 percent a Chevy dealer, which is a good thing for Chevrolet,” Bell said. He said this at a pop-up event in Manhattan celebrating the unveiling of the 2024 Chevy Equinox EV.

 Buick’s chief executive said that all 2,000 of the brand’s franchise merchandisers in the US would be permitted to take a buyout. Carrying the buyout means the dealer will no longer be affiliated with the Buick brand and can no longer sell Buick vehicles. However, they can still trade other General Motors vehicles.

The deal mirrored a comparable one proposed by Cadillac to its dealers who didn’t want to fund upgrades needed to sell the brand’s new EVs, like the 2023 Cadillac Lyriq. That process ended last year, with GM reporting that around one-third, or 575 dealers, took the buyout.

Cadillac and Buick’s loss is Chevy’s gain, according to Bell. (All three brands, along with GMC, are owned by General Motors.) He noted that the dealers representing 95 percent of Chevy’s sales already sell at least one electric vehicle: the Chevy Bolt. Moreover, to Bell, those dealers have demonstrated a willingness to spend the money essential to market even more EVs, which are designated to be unleashed next year.

It’s hard to gauge how dealers extensively sense EVs. Still, evidence suggests they are less than thrilled about upgrading their enterprise to acclimate an entirely new class of vehicles. Multiple car dealers have been in the industry for years. Internal-combustion engines are their livelihood, and they are understandably reluctant to fully embrace the switch to electric.

Many automakers demand dealers to make expensive store upgrades to adapt charging stations and special equipment to service EVs. These modifications can run upwards of $300,000 per dealership. There’s also a growing rift between franchise dealers, which enjoy a lot of state-level political support, and direct-to-consumer brands such as Rivian and Tesla, which eschew the franchise model.

Bell said he notices Chevy’s 3,000-plus dealers as being on the front line in GM’s multi-billion-dollar impulse to court mainstream car buyers to switch to electric. And the dealers appear to be on board.

The stakes are arguably just as elevated for Chevy as for Buick and Cadillac. The brand is central to GM’s EV approach, with three new EVs coming out the following year: the Silverado, Blazer, and Equinox. And while other EVs have gone up in price, Chevy has decided to keep the Bolt EV and Bolt EUV at a lowered cost through the end of the year, highlighting GM CEO Mary Barra’s promise to set “everyone in an EV.”