New-car shoppers are more likely to purchase an electric vehicle (EV) from a legacy automaker than from a startup EV specialist manufacturer. That finding comes from our most recent EVForwardTM report, part of the largest and most comprehensive study of the next generation of electric vehicle buyers.
In what is sure to raise some eyebrows, the report found that the preference for legacy automakers extends across the EV brand landscape. While EV innovator and standard-setter Tesla has a significant amount of consumer mindshare, that mindshare doesn’t translate into a preference to purchase a Tesla vehicle.
More than one-third (35%) of survey respondents indicate a preference for purchasing from a well-established automaker, while just under one-quarter (24%) indicate they’d likely look to an EV specialist to purchase their first electric vehicle. A further 41% of the study’s participants are undecided, highlighting the stakes at play for familiar brands and startups seeking to capitalize on rising waves of EV interest among consumers.
While brands such as Tesla and Rivian have captured headlines and carved out market space for themselves in the fast-growing EV industry, maintaining that space going forward is likely to be a trickier proposition in an industry dominated by companies that have decades of experience in making cars. Established automotive brands have currency with consumers, who have recognized the strides those brands have taken to improve and refine their electric offerings. As the selection of EVs from traditional automakers continues to expand—and performance and features continue to improve—newer players could find themselves in an increasingly competitive space.
While the consumer trust and familiarity enjoyed by traditional automakers have positioned them advantageously, winning over future EV buyers will ultimately depend on the ability to deliver features and traits that EV buyers are looking for. The study found that when it comes to living up to consumers’ expectations and preferences in that regard, automakers of all sizes and tenures have ground to make up.
The top five brand attributes consumers want from an EV are:
The current crop of EV offerings falls short when it comes to meeting these expectations, however. Just 5%–31% of respondents report they feel like any automaker is delivering on any of these five areas with their electrified offerings.
It’s especially noteworthy that EV shoppers who have long prioritized cutting-edge innovation and safety technologies have now added longevity and dependability to that list of priorities. Dependability, value, and low maintenance costs rank highly as key attributes automakers must offer and may reflect shoppers’ preference to purchase from an automaker they already trust.
Going forward, both traditional automakers and EV startups would be wise to revisit design, engineering, and marketing priorities with an eye toward bolstering confidence in consumers looking for an electric vehicle that will serve their needs for years to come. Automakers that can do so successfully will greatly improve their chances of winning over the still substantial subset of EV shoppers who are undecided about the type of company from which they would consider purchasing an EV.
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