Automakers Still Have Explaining To Do (About EVs)

You’d think with the emphasis automakers are putting on their moves toward an “all-electric future,” consumers would be more electric-vehicle-savvy.

But they’re not. 

Just as EVs seem poised to make a leap into the mainstream of auto sales, new research reveals that a simple lack of familiarity or understanding may be standing in the way.

Per the latest GfK AutoMobility AutoTech Insights report, 30% of likely auto buyers say they are unfamiliar with or do not understand
electric vehicle technology. 

The lack of understanding is even higher among women, Generation X and those who plan to buy non-luxury vehicles.

The new research also found that luxury model intenders are nearly three times as likely as non-luxury (38% to 14%) to report high levels of interest in buying an all-electric car. Intenders coming from households with children (35%), Generations Z and Y (30%), and men (24%) are also more likely to be very interested in all-electric vehicles.

Those who are only “slightly” interested in an EV, or not interested at all, are also much more likely to say they “don’t know enough” about the technology (28% vs. 16%), and more than twice as likely to report that they “don’t trust” EVs (22% vs. 8%).

Overall, just 8% of intenders who expect to buy or lease a new car in the next year say they plan to get an all-electric vehicle -- up from 2% in 2016, but still a small percentage of the total market. Conventional (ICE) engines still account for roughly 70% of all U.S. vehicle intentions.

GfK’s Julie Kenar (senior vice president, automobility) and Eric Wagatha (senior vice president & director, GfK Consumer Life) will be presenting insights from the new report at the CES Research Summit on Jan. 4, in a session titled “The New Faces of Techno-Mobility.”

“Making the leap from early adopters to mainstream auto buyers is the greatest challenge facing EVs today,” Kenar says. “Our research points to a significant awareness and messaging gap among those most likely to buy or lease a new car – and that lack of understanding may be leading to low levels of interest and trust. While luxury buyers are highly engaged with the technology, the story is much different among non-luxury and other intenders.”

The industry clearly has work to do in raising consumer awareness and comfort with EVs, Kenar says.

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