Electric vehicles (EVs) have become increasingly important for a new generation of consumers looking for environmentally-friendly technologies in their cars. Since many millennials don’t buy practical–they buy cool, the EVs of today are intentionally breaking the mold of this new segment. With a competitive EV marketplace and new consumers ripe for conquest, automotive marketers must understand the car buyer consumer mindset to reach these users with the right messaging.
Who’s ready for an all-electric future?
We analyzed Quantcast’s first-party data to uncover insights into this new consumer. We found that consumers who have shown an interest in electric vehicles tend to be male, over 30 years old, with a grad school education and higher income ($100K+). So, are the major original equipment manufacturers (OEMS) ready to meet the demand–and reach these potential customers?
All in with EV
The OEMs are going all in with EV. In the last year, General Motors announced their commitment to offering 30 new all-electric vehicles globally by 2025 and becoming fully electric by 2035. GM, Ford, and Stellantis recently issued a joint statement on their shared aspiration to achieve 40-50% of annual US sales volumes of electric vehicles by 2030 to get closer to a zero-emissions future. As a demonstration of that commitment, GM is investing $2 billion to transition its Spring Hill, Tennessee assembly plant to become their third manufacturing site to produce electric vehicles.
Clearly, automakers recognize that EVs will be driving the future: 100 pure battery electric vehicles (BEVs) are expected to be released by the end of 2024 with offerings from all the major manufacturers. And they are aiming for all sales to be electric-only in the near future.
There’s an EV version of that?!?
EV launched with models such as the Tesla Roadster, the Nissan Leaf, and the Chevrolet Bolt, which fit the traditional EV idea of low-emission, pushing the consumer benefits of fuel-efficiency and government incentive programs. But 2021 saw some unique vehicles hit the market–especially in unheard of segments such as pickup trucks–like the Rivian R1T. SUVs and trucks are notoriously inefficient gas-guzzlers, but that’s what makes them ideal for electrification, and their size actually makes it easier to package with a large battery. Upcoming EV releases include the Ford F-150 Lightning, the first electric pickup purpose-built for work, the GMC Hummer EV, a reinvention of the off-road performance supertruck, and the Tesla Cybertruck, a wedge-shaped futuristic version of a pickup truck.
Consumers are excited but reluctant
Recognizing electric cars as the future, many consumers love the idea of an emission-free, environmentally-friendly car. A recent Pew Research Center report found that 67% of Americans think electric cars and trucks are better for the environment, and 47% support a proposal to phase out production of gasoline-powered cars and trucks. But sales of electric vehicles have been slow to take off in the US, with only 7% of adults currently owning an electric or hybrid vehicle, despite automakers investing heavily in the technology. So why are consumers still hesitant to make the all-electric switch?
Two-thirds of Americans consider electric vehicles more expensive, which is one possible sticking point. In addition, according to a Cars.com survey, non-EV owners are concerned with limited range for travel distance, limited battery life span, a lack of charging or service stations, and charging times. In fact, 34% of Americans think of electric vehicles as being less reliable than their gas-powered counterparts. These consumer anxieties, however, are often based on outdated perceptions that aren’t necessarily accurate.
Encouraging engagement with EV
Consumers need an extra push to engage with EV. The first marketing step is simply increasing awareness of the broad range of options in makes and models. The early EV options were either tiny cars or elite luxury vehicles, so people may not realize that they can now get an electric SUV, sedan, or hatchback. By familiarizing consumers with a product that still seems futuristic and cutting-edge, marketers can ‘normalize’ the concept of electric cars.
The next step is addressing the specific concerns that might be holding consumers back from making a first purchase:
- Range: The EV models sold in America can travel a range of 114 to 405 miles without recharging. The average daily distance is 37 miles for Americans and 45 km (28 miles) for Britons. Reassure consumers that they have ample range for their daily commute, and even with longer road trips, charging is not needed as frequently as they might think.
- Ease of use: It’s important to educate EV consumers that charging isn’t difficult. Most vehicles can fast-charge to 80% in 30 minutes. Installing a charger in your garage is a simple charging solution, with even some workplaces offering charging stations. For those on the go, public charging stations have expanded sevenfold in the past five years with easy-to-use apps to help people locate the nearest charging station.
- Cost: EVs can be less expensive in the long run with lower fuel, insurance, and maintenance costs. With less moving parts, EV and plug-in hybrids cost half as much to repair and maintain, according to a Consumer Reports survey. Consumers should also know that they can gain cost benefits from tax credits, rebates, or incentives, plus save time (and time is money) in commutes with HOV access. Electric vehicles don’t cost as much as people remember, so providing price point comparisons between EVs and other cars could be enlightening. General Motors is even covering the cost of home installation of charging outlets for Chevrolet’s 2022 Bolt EUV or BoltEV.
- Safety: Reassure consumers of the overall safety of EV batteries and point toward improvements that make them even safer. While battery fires have attracted a lot of media attention, EVs are not necessarily more prone to fire–and evidence suggests they may even be less likely to catch fire. The industry continues to advance its lithium-ion technology, resolve problems, and develop new batteries: GM will power future EVs like the GMC Hummer and Cadillac Lyriq with Ultium batteries, and by mid-decade, manufacturers like Mercedes-Benz, Honda, and Toyota plan to use next-generation solid-state batteries, which should be essentially fireproof.
And finally, marketers should tout all the perks of owning an electric vehicle:
- Environmentally friendly: The environmental benefits are significant, with zero tailpipe emissions and well-to-wheel emissions (the pollution generated from extracting oil, refining it into fuel, and transporting it to gas stations).
- Fun factor: Beyond this motivation, prospective consumers should know that electric vehicles can be fun to drive with a silent engine, instant torque, smooth handling, and rapid acceleration. With their powerful processors, sensors, and algorithms, EVs can also reach higher levels of autonomous driving technology.
The EV opportunity
Given that in-market car buyers are nervous but eager to go all-electric, it’s critical that marketers understand this new consumer and lean into education-focused benefits messaging. This includes highlighting the unique new EV models entering the market, showcasing the benefits of EV, and addressing consumer reluctance.
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