GM EVs at Costco Auto help drive electric vehicle sales

Customers exit a Costco store in Teterboro, New Jersey, June 28, 2023.

Kena Betancur | Corbis News | Getty Images

DETROIT — General Motors has a not-so-secret weapon when it comes to getting U.S. consumers into its new all-electric vehicles: Costco Wholesale.

The Detroit automaker said it’s increasingly using the retail giant’s Costco Auto Program for EVs as it expands its portfolio from niche vehicles to mass-market segments with vehicles such as the Chevrolet Equinox and Chevrolet Blazer EVs.

“We have a great partnership with Costco, and I’m really bullish on Costco because I like their brand,” GM North America President Marissa West told CNBC during a recent interview. “I am encouraging the team to see how we can build this partnership.”

West sees EVs as a “huge opportunity” to expand GM’s reach with Costco’s more than 50 million members in the U.S. The automaker is also the exclusive automotive partner for Costco Auto in Canada.

Automakers such as GM, Ford Motor and Volkswagen have been shifting their electric vehicle strategies in recent months in an effort to boost sales and achieve long-elusive profits on the vehicles. Brands have eased off all-electric messaging, leaned into hybrid vehicles as a bridge toward adoption and struck charging partnerships to boost consumer confidence in the market.

An intermediary such as Costco, which has a robust customer demographic for new vehicle buyers, could help move the needle for EV sales.

Costco Auto, a third-party service of the wholesale retailer, doesn’t sell the vehicles, Costco said. Instead, it acts as a facilitator, or partner, for franchised dealers and automakers such as GM, offering Costco members special pricing on the vehicles via discounts and other incentives, the retailer said.

Costco Auto has facilitated more than 500,000 vehicle sales annually over the past five years on average, according to Jay Maxwell, Costco Auto Program general manager responsible for strategic partnerships.

That volume, like that of many of Costco’s products, is a lot. It amounts to at least 3% of all vehicles sold in the U.S. each year and more than the annual sales of large publicly traded dealer groups such as Lithia Motors and AutoNation.

GM declined to disclose how many Costco customers have purchased GM vehicles through the program.

EV interest

A growing number of vehicle sales made through Costco Auto are of electric vehicles, Costco said. About 7% of member requests for vehicles to Costco Auto were related to electric vehicles in 2023, according to Maxwell.

“Our membership has always liked new things, and EVs are absolutely new to the marketplace,” Maxwell said. “This is a great way for the [automakers] to market and get their EVs out in front of people that are interested. Costco has a very strong demographic that fits well with EV buyers.”

In addition to GM, Costco Auto has partnered with Volvo, including its Polestar EV startup brand, Audi and others over the years.

GM’s 2024 Chevrolet Equinox EV during a…

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GM EVs at Costco Auto help drive electric vehicle sales

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