Ford, Tesla Emerging as EV Leaders with Fleet Decision-Makers—But the Race Is Just Beginning

September 14, 2021

Despite the impacts of the pandemic and resulting chip shortages and supply chain issues, the electrification of the automobile is reaching all but “foregone conclusion” territory at a rapid pace. Brands big and small, established and startups, are racing to shout their commitments to a sustainable future from the mountaintops to win over buyers and investors, touting fully electrified product lineups and “net zero” manufacturing practices.

Now, those commitments are being noticed by fleet decision-makers.

In our latest Fleet Advisory HubTM study, Fleet Electrification & The Evolving Brand Landscape, we asked fleet decision-makers to evaluate selected brands across four key metrics: familiarity, positive opinion, consideration and leadership.

Ford and Tesla Stand Out

Among light duty fleet operators, a clear trend emerged: these decision-makers are keenly tuned into the activities of legacy car manufacturers, including Ford, Toyota, Chevrolet, GMC, Nissan, RAM and Chrysler. However, when asked about nascent car makers—which included the likes of Rivian, Lucid, Lordstown and Canoo—only Tesla was able to compete with the “old guard,” and theirs was a strong showing.

Light Duty Brand Funnel Metrics

While Ford is at the head of the pack among light duty fleet decision-makers when it comes to familiarity, the blue oval is joined by Toyota for positive opinion and consideration, where the lead over Tesla is narrower. Further, Tesla’s years of retail market EV supremacy are paying off. Fleet decision-makers overwhelmingly point to Elon Musk’s brand as the “absolute leader” in the space, a position that boosts Tesla’s performance in other categories when compared to other, lesser-known startups.

Escalent 2021 Fleet Advisory Hub: Light Duty Brand Funnel Metrics

Light duty startups have a big hill to climb to catch up to established automakers, but one critical avenue is clear: they must take a bite out of Tesla’s leadership “mind share” to forge a path to success. By getting their vehicles on the road and showing what they’re capable of—particularly in the context of the needs of fleet decision-makers—there’s still a chance for light duty startups to establish a foothold and gain ground by raising brand awareness and familiarity.

Bigger Trucks, Bigger Competition

On the medium and heavy duty side of the fleet world, Ford leads again—including for familiarity, positive opinion and consideration—while Tesla continues to edge out the rest of the crowd in leadership. However, what’s most interesting in this segment is the parity from top to bottom, particularly compared to the light duty market.

Medium and Heavy Duty Brand Funnel Metrics

Ford and Tesla both give up ground to the rest of the field from top to bottom, as medium and heavy duty fleet decision-makers indicate higher familiarity, positive opinion and consideration for each of the eleven other brands—including the five startups evaluated. While Tesla’s consumer products have left an impression on those evaluating light duty options, that leadership position is not as pronounced among medium and heavy duty decision-makers, who have yet to face daily exposure to tangible products that address their real-world needs. Tesla still holds the lead, but the field is a bit more wide open.

Escalent 2021 Fleet Advisory Hub: Medium and Heavy Duty Brand Funnel Metrics

The door is open for startups such as Nikola, Rivian, BYD, Brightdrop and Arrival to make inroads among these key constituents, but they’ll need to act fast—and boldly—to gain ground on established medium and heavy duty brands entering the EV arena.

Growing Out & Sizing Up

As the automotive landscape continues to evolve, so, too, will the opinions of fleet decision-makers. Legacy automakers and startups alike must find ways to demonstrate their respective benefits, albeit in different ways. The names with which we are all familiar can’t rest on their laurels—they must show they have the capability and agility to manufacture the vehicles they’re known for with reliable electric powertrains. Conversely, the new brands on the block must prove their ability to scale up to meet production and support volume without sacrificing quality or reliability.

To learn more about Fleet Advisory Hub, send a note to our Automotive & Mobility team today.

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Lucas Lowden
Insights Consultant, Automotive & Mobility

Innovation strategist and business analyst, Lucas has over 15 years of experience in market research and automotive. He is the program lead for Fleet Advisory Hub™—an innovative, cost effective way for companies to secure a substantial portion of their annual commercial and fleet vehicle insights. Lucas has spent significant time working with senior management to frame Escalent's automotive strategy around the next generation of research and consulting solutions. He also led the facilitation of a cross-functional team to develop Escalent's big data and IoT strategy, capabilities and partner network.  

Michael Schmall
Vice President, Automotive & Mobility

Michael works at the intersection of shared mobility, connected vehicle, ADAS, and commercial and fleet vehicle electrification. His responsibilities center on the future of the broad, global automotive industry, including commercial and fleet vehicles, products, and services. He is heavily engaged in the implementation of Fleet Advisory Hub™ and was closely involved in the development and application of Escalent's modern, comprehensive DataDialogue™ array of solutions, with a major emphasis on big data. Michael is also involved in product positioning, questionnaire development, project fieldwork, statistical analysis and analytics, strategy development and dealer-related concepts.