Zoom Zoom! Going Electric? Do Your Homework 

It’s a tough time being a car owner. 

I remember my first car, a fudgy brown Hornet. So dull, so boring, but it was mine, all mine. I’d wash it, vacuum it, tune it up way more than necessary; I cared for it like nothing else. Since then, my fondness for cars has just increased, and over the years, I’ve had a nice string of them, all used: a PT Cruiser, a Sebring convertible, then an Audi convertible, until I began leasing, enjoying the new car smell every three years. However, between the gas prices inching up to almost $5 a gallon with no end in sight, the debate whether to go electric, the wisdom of “driverless” cars, not to mention that even if you were one of the thousands of car owners who traditionally trade in their car this time of year, there’s not much inventory.   

In this challenging time, we thought we’d get the low-down on the present and future car market from Robert Sinclair, Senior Manager of Public Affairs for AAA Northeast, and with Will Treves, the COO of rodo.com, an internet-only, “double-sided marketplace that connects dealers and car shoppers online,” or what Zillow does for real estate, Rodo does for the automobile industry. 

“Yes,” says Sinclair, “this is the time of year when car owners trade in their vehicles for something new for their summer vacation, but this is not a typical time. The supply chain is low, and a shortage of vehicles.” This is due to a few factors: car owners are holding onto their used car so there is less of them for sale, there’s a shortage of new cars, so leasing has become much more expensive. Also, when a lease is coming to its expiration date, he says, “the customer is buying it out which is cheaper than going into a new lease or taking out a loan to purchase a new one.” The buyout price of that car from three years ago, he explains, can be considerably less.  

When asked his thoughts about the future of electric cars, he pauses. “I haven’t drunk the Kool-Aid,” he says, and speaks about some of the cons of an electric car that the car-buying public may not be fully aware. “At a recent automobile safety symposium, there were fire marshals in attendance sharing their experiences with the lithium batteries in the cars self-igniting.” Consider this: electric cars need to be recharged over long periods of time, and right now they use a 120-volt, and can be plugged into a household outlet. However, the future of these cars is calling for higher voltages so they can be charged in less time. The higher the voltage of these lithium batteries, the more potential for a fire. 

Among some of the other concerns he has about the cars is their price, with an average electric car going for over $50,000, which is not truly a cheaper drive now. The weight of the electric cars makes it a much heavier vehicle due to the battery, frame, and suspension, which slows it down and limits its range. With the Tesla, for example, being about 700 pounds heavier than a gas-fueled car, it can create more damage in crashes. And, just like gas, electricity is expensive, so before going the electric car route, he says, “do your homework.” He doesn’t believe that we’ve seen the true potential of the gas engine, and that rather than abandon gas-fueled vehicles, he hopes car manufacturers will continue to pursue a more efficient engine. “Gasoline engines will still be around,” he says.   

We wanted to add in a little bit about the online car buying experience and invited Will Treves of Rodo.com to share how their online car buying and selling site works.

“When you buy a car on Rodo,” says Treves, “you are choosing from tens of thousands of both new and used cars listed on our marketplace. We offer choice, competitive pricing and convenience, which is often what consumers think they won’t get at the local dealership. In fact, many of our customers did test drive a vehicle at their local dealership, but then came to Rodo because the traditional in-person car buying experience can be so complicated.” If there’s a problem with a purchase, he says, “I can’t think of an occasion when it couldn’t be swiftly resolved to the customer’s satisfaction.  Customers can also purchase extra warranties on their purchase if desired. 

Women are more apt to purchase online, Treves says, because of their unpleasant experiences when buying a car… many feel they don’t get the service they deserve at the dealership, or that dealerships can feel intimidating, or male dominated. When asked if the car dealerships will continue to serve a purpose, he says, “The car retail business is like many brick and mortar industries coming to terms with the reality of the Internet. Think about how traditional travel agents were revolutionized by online travel sites. Or apparel, or food delivery. Typically, the physical stores in these industries don’t go away. They just end up serving a specific type of consumer who doesn’t want to shop online. So, while the role of the dealership will change in the coming years, I don’t think they will ever go away.”

We had to ask about the future of driverless cars. He says they do have a future. “But only eventually.  In the meantime, I think the real growth in driverless technology will be in commercial vehicles like trucks and other vehicles which are used for freight. So, I’m afraid it’s not time to hang up your keys quite yet.”

Top photo: Will Treves, the COO of Rodo.com

Photos courtesy of Rodo.com

About MJ Hanley-Goff (123 Articles)
MJ Hanley-Goff has been contributing to Woman Around Town since its inception in 2009. She began her career at Newsday in the early 90’s and has continued writing professionally for other New York publications like the Times Herald-Record, Orange Magazine, and Hudson Valley magazine. Former editor of Hudson Valley Parent magazine, she also contributed stories to AAA’s Car & Travel, and Tri-County Woman. After completing her novel and a self-help book, she created MJWRITES, INC. to offer writing workshops and book coaching to first time authors, and college essay writing help to students. MJ is thrilled and honored to write for WAT for the amazing adventures it offers, like reviewing concerts, people, authors, events, and tourist attractions in New York, and around the world. “I enjoy drawing attention to the off-the-beaten path kinds of stories,” she says. “It’s great big world out there, with so many talented and creative artists, doers, and thinkers.”