What Powers EV Buys: Status Grab Rather Than Altruism?


The most likely electric vehicle buyer isn’t always virtue-signaling when she considers an EV, despite the usual linkage of this market to environmental issues.

The top factors influencing a potential EV purchase are actually status and aspirational concerns, according to a new GfK AutoMobility® report, “The Future of Mobility.”

The largest majority – 61% -- said they were influenced by such status-driven factors as how a car would look in their social media feeds.

They said yes to such statements as:

-- “Owning an electric vehicle projects who I want to be.”

--  "I am or want to be the first in my social circle to buy an electric vehicle.”

-- “I would feel great driving an electric vehicle.”

Not surprisingly, those who were planning to buy a luxury vehicle were also more drawn to the status-related aspects of EVs. Asked what would make them more likely to consider an EV, luxury intenders were more likely to cite “attractive styling” and “powerful acceleration,” while non-luxury intenders would be drawn to an EV if it were similar in price to a gas-powered car.



Other influencing factors included an affinity for technology, and wanting to trade up to the latest tech. Eleven percent said things like they “would love if vehicles could just drive themselves.”

A commitment to the environment was cited as a minor factor, exerting only 7% of the total influence.

Another 11% cited the practicality of electric vehicles (“would benefit my finances by not having to buy gas”).

When asked how they would “justify” the decision to purchase an EV, if and when they actually do buy one, intenders fell back on practical and environment-driven explanations: fuel economy gains, reducing emissions to fight climate change, and reducing reliance on oil.

“While buying an EV may indeed be a plus for the environment, the underlying reasons are complex and all-important,” Tom Neri, commercial director at GfK North America, noted in a press release.

In an email to Marketing Daily, Neri further noted how these insights could be put to practical use.

“To target aspirational EV intenders, auto brands and sellers need to walk a fine line between where these intenders are today and what they hope to be tomorrow” he said.

“Aspirational lifestyle influencers on social media and elsewhere could be a great way to get their attention. Financial service and investment sites are also tailor-made for this audience -- a great place to position EVs as not just responsible and sustainable, but also glamorous, with style and performance. And ‘vicarious living’ sites and TV shows, which give those who make a little less a taste of what it’s like to have more, are also a promising channel.”

Data for the GfK study was collected from a sub-sample of GfK New Vehicle Intenders from GfK’s Auto Mobility syndicated program, with a sample size of 3,186 surveyed during Q3 2022.

Another survey found that consumers are growing more receptive to electric vehicles -- but they’re also still worried about affordability.

According to Deloitte’s Global Automotive Consumer study, while U.S. consumer interest in hybrid and fully electric (EV) alternatives is on the rise, a lack of affordability remains the top concern for more than half (52%) of Americans.

In the U.S., intent to purchasehybrid electric vehicles (HEV), plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) and all-battery powered electric vehicles (BEV) are each up by 3 percentage points from 2022.

Further, nearly seven in 10 of those looking to purchase an EV in the U.S. expect to pay less than $50K for their next vehicle.

Globally, consumer interest in battery electric vehicles (BEVs) is highest in China (27%, up 10 points year-over-year). Japanese consumers continue to show the highest preference towards hybrid electric vehicles (HEV/PHEV) (48%, flat from 2022).

In its 13th year, the report is based on a survey of more than 26,000 consumers across 24 countries conducted in September and October 2022.

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