Less then a year ago, Best Buy was enthusiastic about its selection of electric vehicles. With a focus on electric motorcycles, most notably those of Brammo, the sales of electric two-wheelers in many of its stores fit in nicely with the electronic retailer’s long-term sustainability strategy. Rumors were even swirling that Best Buy would start to sell electric cars.
Now Best Buy has taken a step back. The company recently decided to cease the sales of most battery powered bikes and scooters. So what happened?
Despite the recent spike in gasoline prices, Best Buy could not move the electric bikes out of its stores and onto the streets. Sales of scooters overall have actually risen 50% in the first quarter of this year–but those impressive figures do not include electric motorcycles.
Plenty of issues lie behind the disappointing sales. Despite Best Buy’s commitment to educate customers on the facts and myths about electric vehicles (EV), commuters were still confused. Claims about recharge time, charge and cost fell on customers’ deaf ears. Some vehicles were just impractical. Currie Technologies’ E-Zip electric scooter, for example, boasted a 36V charger that allowed you to travel at speeds up to 15mph for a range of 12 miles. To move around for less than an hour is great for a put-put golf course or to channel Will Arnett’s character Gob Bluth from Arrested Development, but for commuters who want a real commuting solution, US$600 was a high price to buy a big cool toy. Meanwhile, US$4 to $5 gas did wonders for the sales of gasoline-powered scooters and human-powered bicycles–just not for anything that required a battery charge.
Despite the demise of Best Buy’s EV product line–only a few electric bikes will be sold at a quarter of its locations, and only during summer–the retailer is pursuing the EV market with a different approach. The “Geek Squad” may well become the leader for the purchase and installation of EV charging stations, and will continue to install charging stations at its stores while adding electric cars to its fleet. As for the rumors that Best Buy will sell electric automobiles–they are just rumors and as of now highly doubtful.
The jury is still out on whether Best Buy is a leading or lagging retailer, but the company deserves credit for its work on recycling e-waste. From purchasing green energy to its community work, Best Buy still holds its own. In the end, its two-year commitment to electric vehicles did not result in sales, so the Geek Squad will make a difference by other means.