Thought Leadership

EV Purchasing Preferences Favor Familiar Brands Over EV Specialists

June 7, 2022
New car buyer purchases electric vehicle from a familiar, well-established automaker

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 EVForward™ 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:

  • Dependable, lasts a long time (44% of respondents)
  • Good value for money (42%)
  • Latest safety technologies (40%)
  • Inexpensive to maintain (38%)
  • Innovative features and technologies (37%)

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.

To learn more about EVForward™ and the types of EV consumer insights you cannot find anywhere else in the market, click the button below.

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K.C. Boyce
K.C. Boyce
Vice President, Automotive & Mobility and Energy

K.C. Boyce is the vice president leading Escalent’s Cogent Syndicated Energy and EVForward practices. He works with energy providers and automakers to craft compelling products and programs that accelerate the energy transition. Throughout his career, K.C. has worked across industries and sectors to develop innovative solutions to complex problems and translate subject matter expertise into actionable insight. He is the co-host of the weekly Energy Matters radio show and a nationally-known speaker on topics such as electric vehicles and solar. Before joining Escalent, K.C. was senior vice president at Chartwell, where he led industry and consumer research, conference production and marketing. He also served as the Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative’s assistant director, leading its consumer research program. K.C. holds an MBA from Georgia State’s Robinson College of Business and a bachelor’s degree in political science from Colorado College.

Headshot of Escalent's senior insights manager Ben Lundin
Ben Lundin
Insights Director, Automotive & Mobility

Ben Lundin is an insights director of Automotive & Mobility at Escalent, where he focuses on better understanding the next-generation of electric vehicle buyers. From ideation and survey design, to fielding and reporting, Ben has led many qualitative and quantitative consumer research projects exploring the wants, needs, and lifestyles of electric vehicle owners and intenders. Prior to joining Escalent, Ben was an industry analyst at Strategy Analytics where he covered global trends in shared mobility and urban transportation. Ben also has worked as a member of the research team at Global Strategy Group and as a business development coordinator at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. In his spare time, Ben volunteers as a member of the Patient and Caregiver Advisory Council for the Kidney Cancer Association. He holds a bachelor’s degree in economics, political science and Spanish from the University of Connecticut and a master’s degree in international economics from American University.