Fisker pivots to franchised dealerships for EV sales, support

Fisker on Thursday said it would add franchised dealerships alongside company-owned showrooms, pivoting away from the pure direct-sales model previously discussed.

“We are evolving our business model and intend to add as many as 50 dealer partners in the U.S. and Canada and a similar number of dealer locations in Europe this year,” CEO Henrik Fisker said in a statement to Reuters.

Fisker said the addition of franchised dealerships would help “satisfy increasing demand for the Fisker Ocean and to prepare for launch of additional future models.” Fisker has reported that its contract manufacturer Magna produced 10,142 Ocean electric SUVs in 2023, but only 4,700 were delivered to customers. And Fisker has shown potential follow-up models, including the affordable Pear, the Alaska pickup truck, and Ronin convertible.

Fisker Ocean

 

A company press release said that dealers should start receiving vehicles by the end of the first quarter, adding that negotiations with dealers started in November 2023. Fisker plans to offer no-haggle pricing “where permitted” and claims it won’t require dealerships to make costly upgrades to existing facilities. Mandatory EV-related upgrades have become a sticking point for Ford and General Motors as the two automakers try to prepare their dealer networks for much higher volumes of EV sales.

The company does plan to maintain its Fisker Lounges as showrooms, but North American dealerships will soon handle everything from test drives and sales to financing, servicing, and warranty repairs. In Europe, the company plans a hybrid model, signing up dealers while continuing direct sales.

Tesla made direct sales part of the EV-startup template. Its direct sales and service model was based on Apple Stores—and it included hiring the creator of that retail model. But other automakers have had varying levels of success in copying it.

2023 Fisker Ocean

Earlier this week, Vinfast also announced a pivot to the franchised dealership model. The first Vinfast dealership has already opened in North Carolina, one of 125 sales points the company is aiming for in the U.S.

Originally Rivian planned to use dealers for service and support, while selling directly. But it eventually formed its own operation for everything, becoming fully direct like Tesla. Lucid is also currently using direct sales exclusively.

Polestar uses a hybrid model that takes advantage of dealership service facilities from parent brand Volvo and may be the best of both worlds. Volvo itself attempted direct sales of its EVs, but dealers pushed back.

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