Great Wall Motor (GWM), through the acquisition of the General Motors/Chevrolet production plant in Rayong, Thailand, embarked on production in Thailand and then using Thailand as the base to reach out to the rest of Southeast Asia and beyond. This GWM factory is their first outside of China and for sure they have great plans and hopes for the growth of GWM in this region. They plan to do this through innovative ways of sales and marketing.
One of the first unique introductions to the Thai market, and possible beyond later, is their new and innovative way of network development. Unlike the traditional way of having the dealer network serve as the proxy for the OEM, by reaching out to the end customers and to try to keep them, GWM's direct sales method means that they play a very active role in the prospecting of customers and then to own the customers. Dealers have been "relegated" to being just order takers and service providers. This extends to after-sales services even, and all the customer database is in the hands of GWM. I think this is the future trend and other brands are likely to follow.
Mercedes Benz has introduced such direct sales method too in other markets as trial and will roll out to the rest of the market when they are confident of the model. Dealers do not even need to manage vehicle stocks, they are all under one roof managed by Mercedes Benz (and this is the same model for GWM), so dealers become more like brokers instead.
The other fundamental change is the skills requirement in the dealership. Many studies have shown that the vast majority of dealers are still not ready to sell EVs. To be equipped with the basic knowledge of EVs for sales and service activities, dealership personnel will need to know about the basics of electrical engineering, at least to understand different types of motors, inverters, on-board off-board chargers, EVSEs, batteries, and to have a basic understanding of words like voltage, resistance, current in ampheres, wattage, AC DC current, current conversion, and the safety issues related to handling EVs and charger installation. Though not likely to become prevalent anytime soon, dealers should still start to traing their staff for basic understanding of even things like induction charging. These are new skills and knowledge that dealerships need to quickly acquire to have a greater impact on promoting electric vehicles.
Dealer staff will also need to be able to liaise with car makers on issues related to software and future upgrading (usually OTA nowadays), and cybersecurity issues. As the technology of EVs progresses, dealerships will need to be able to pick up skills and knowledge to sell and service self-driving cars, GWM already offers level 2 autonomous driving in the Ora good cats now, and they plan to elevate self driving technology further in the next 2-3 years. If the dealers do not start to build the knowledge and skills inhouse NOW, they may have no time to react in the near future.