The Lucid Motors store in Scottsdale Fashion Square is the newest in the trend

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Shopping malls are no longer just places to shop for clothes, have lunch or maybe watch a movie. You could also end up buying a new car.

As automakers turn to non-traditional ways of marketing their vehicles, more and more are trying shopping malls, drawn by the heavy foot traffic and a pressure-free atmosphere. New entrants, especially electric vehicle manufacturers, are at the forefront.

At least five manufacturers of electric vehicles – from luxury sedans selling for over $ 160,000 to scooters priced at $ 1,500 – have opened showrooms or exhibits in Arizona malls over the past two years. last years. Scottsdale Fashion Square, surrounded by upscale neighborhoods and with a large influx of tourists, is leading the way.

Many automakers consider shopping mall locations a better bet than traditional car fleets.

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“As a new brand that still requires good (consumer) education, it’s important for us to raise awareness,” said Zak Edson, senior director of retail operations for Lucid Motors, which builds luxury cars at Casa Grande and just opened a store in Scottsdale Fashion Square. “The location of a shopping center allows us to reach audiences that we might otherwise have difficulty reaching. “

Automotive showrooms in shopping centers typically have one or more cars on display, with staff ready to answer questions and, using computer technology, simulate different color schemes, trims and options. Some, like Lucid, also have virtual reality systems that allow buyers to experience more aspects of the vehicle. Depending on the company, potential buyers may also have the option of taking a test drive with a car, on site.

Electric car giant Tesla, which has led many trends in the industry, has embraced mall locations for about a decade. Now others follow.

Tesla has stores in Scottsdale Fashion Square and Kierland Commons, as well as another location in Scottsdale and another in Tucson. Tesla operates 177 showrooms across the country, according to the company’s website. Many are in shopping malls, some are located in traditional auto centers, and some are stand-alone facilities.

Why shopping centers are attractive

Tesla and other power makers also sell cars on the Internet, often without relying on traditional car fleets. Sales in shopping centers complement this approach.

“A lot of these companies are entering unfamiliar markets, so they need a lot of foot traffic and visibility,” said Kim Choukalas, vice president of leasing in Phoenix for Macerich, owner of Scottsdale Fashion Square and most others. upscale shopping malls in Arizona. . “Tesla led the effort and had great success.”

Selling at a traditional auto mall is more transactional, Edson said, with hundreds or thousands of vehicles on display for customers who have likely already figured out roughly what they want to buy.

“You know you want the Mercedes, you look for the one you want and you buy it right away,” he said.

Mall marketing is less transactional and more focused on educating consumers about a vehicle and its features over a potentially longer period of time. This allows potential customers to make an “occasional discovery” of a brand as they pass by, Edson said.

Additionally, people seem to be more comfortable with personalizing an online purchase and waiting for delivery. “A lot of electric vehicles are built on your demand, which makes the large inventory at parking lots smaller,” Choukalas said.

Luxury cars on display

Lucid, which plans to start delivering electric vehicles later this year, is the newest automaker to enter Scottsdale Fashion Square, following an August 7 ribbon-cutting ceremony at the mall. The company plans to have nearly two dozen retail “studios” by the end of the year, many in malls.

The Lucid Air, which is slated to roll out of the Casa Grande factory later this year, will sell for around $ 77,400. The company has also planned an SUV and other models, including an ultra-luxury version which is expected to sell for over $ 160,000 and offers over 500 miles of range between charges and zero to 60 mph acceleration in about. three seconds.

Other high-end car manufacturers are also involved, including Volvo Cars and the Chinese Geely Holding, makers of the new Polestar 2 electric vehicle. Unlike Lucid, which still tests the quality of the vehicles it plans to produce, the Polestar 2 is already available for purchase at prices that start around $ 59,900.

“It’s a nice, high quality (electric) vehicle at a reasonable price,” said Scott Gruwell, CEO of Courtesy Automotive Group in Phoenix. The vehicles are currently made in China, but production will eventually move to the Volvo plant in Charleston, South Carolina, he said.

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Different types of partnership

Courtesy, a traditional car dealership with decades of experience in the Phoenix metro area, is the local dealership of choice for Polestar. It’s a different type of arrangement, one that allows an experienced auto retailer to walk customers through what could be an unusual process involving an unknown brand, Gruwell said.

“Courtesy is the face of the vehicle and does the heavy lifting in terms of delivery and service,” he said. “When something is wrong, you are not dealing with a 1-800 number.”

The mall approach works for Polestar for many of the same reasons cited by Lucid and others. “With a brand new and new vehicles, we thought this was the best place to get a lot of glances,” said Gruwell.

Car dealerships often like to cluster in large complexes anyway, and a mall with multiple brands of electric vehicles builds on that, he added.

Other Arizona Mall Tenants

And there are other types of EVs on display in local malls, including cheaper options.

The Solo, a three-wheeled, one-seater electric mini-car, was currently or recently on display at five Arizona malls – two in Scottsdale plus Chandler Fashion Center, Arrowhead Towne Center, and La Encantada in Tucson. This is in addition to malls in California and other states, primarily in the West.

The initial Solo model, capable of reaching 80 mph, sells for $ 18,500 with a range of around 100 miles between charges. The vehicle is made in China, with plans to shift more production to Mesa. ElectraMeccanica, the vehicle’s Canadian parent company, recently opened an assembly and engineering plant near the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport.

Even Phat Scooters now has a showroom in Scottsdale Fashion Square. The South Phoenix company imports Chinese-made electric scooters that can go up to 20 miles per hour with a range of 30 to 40 miles between charges. They are priced from $ 1,500 to $ 3,995, according to the company’s website.

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An Evolving Retail Format

Shopping malls have fluctuated in recent years, responding to online shopping and other retail challenges. Many traditional clothing and toy chains have disappeared, but newcomers have appeared to fill the void, including more and more restaurants, hotels, offices, fitness centers and medical centers.

The emergence of electric vehicle showrooms is another step in this development, and shopping center operators welcome it.

“The end of the game, the goal, is to give consumers a reason, a reason to go to our centers two or three times a week,” explained Choukalas.

Contact the reporter at russ.wiles@arizonarepublic.com.

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