While many headlines indicate battery electric vehicle (BEV) adoption is increasing, traction remains slow in the commercial vehicle and fleet segment, where decision-makers cite several reasons for apprehension, including seeking proof manufacturers can deliver reliable products and easy-to-implement electrification solutions.
Surprisingly, vehicle brand is neither a primary motivator nor constraint for BEV consideration. Only 5% of fleet decision-makers cite “brands offering BEVs” as a top three reason to consider a BEV, while 5% also indicate it as a challenge, or barrier, to adoption. On the other hand, attributes that define brand reputation and underpin a brand promise—such as vehicle cost, quality/reliability/durability and performance—resonate with decision-makers.
These are the latest findings of the newest Fleet Electrification Brand Landscape Report from Escalent’s Fleet Advisory Hub™, a leading insights program designed to explore the needs, expectations and emotions of commercial vehicle and fleet decision-makers. This report explores the perspectives of nearly 1,000 fleet decision-makers on manufacturer brand-related sentiments across four key fleet and commercial vehicle segments: light passenger, commercial van, commercial pickup truck and medium/heavy-duty vehicles.
Legacy brands Ford, Chevrolet/GMC and Ram currently benefit from established relationships in the fleet sector, which may provide a short-term advantage for BEV consideration among fleet decision-makers. However, established brands may face challenges from emerging start-ups—notably Tesla, which has an already stronger retail foothold than other start-ups, and especially Rivian, which performs strongly among those who are familiar with the brand and has now opened order books beyond its Amazon contract.
More importantly, with half (51%) of decision-makers needing to see BEV technology be proven, fleet leaders are awaiting objective and relevant, real-world use cases demonstrating BEV reliability and performance in order for BEVs to earn a spot in their future consideration sets.
“A seamless journey is needed, meaning a holistic customer and ownership experience that proves BEVs can meet the needs of the business, are reliable and are worth the long-term investment,” said Lucas Lowden, insights consultant and program lead of Fleet Advisory Hub at Escalent. “In order to gain traction with BEVs in the commercial vehicle market beyond early adopters, manufacturers and regulators must prove that transition is beneficial.”
While the study found that almost one-quarter (23%) of decision-makers are integrating BEVs into their fleet and 40% believe BEVs are the future, overall market penetration among commercial vehicles remains at around 1%, which indicates that businesses are integrating only a small number of BEVs at a time rather than replacing at large scale—leading to less market traction than many expect.
Driving range, battery life and replacement costs, time to charge, charging infrastructure and total cost of ownership are the top areas of opportunity for industry stakeholders to address to better meet the business needs of fleets, according to the study.
“These challenges are nonstarters for most fleet decision-makers. BEVs will not gain meaningful traction in the commercial vehicle and fleet sector if these areas are not addressed by industry stakeholders,” added Lowden. “Early adopters are typically larger fleets that are willing and able to take on risk as well as tolerate less than ideal experiences. However, fast followers are much less accepting of risk and a poor ownership experience, which is why they need more proof. If they hear of or have negative experiences, they’ll opt out of BEV adoption until they feel that the problem areas have been corrected.”
Despite this, there are concepts for industry stakeholders to embrace that can help mitigate the risk of BEV adoption that comes with traditional vehicle acquisition and ownership. Fleet decision-makers say they would be more likely to consider BEVs with pilot test programs tailored to specific company needs (52%), fleet-as-a-service initiatives (49%), or turnkey solutions that provide full support to acquire and onboard BEVs into business operations (46%).
As the automotive industry navigates this dynamic and unpredictable path to electrification, Escalent’s Fleet Advisory Hub provides indispensable insights for product manufacturers and service providers serving the commercial vehicle and fleet market. With nearly 12,000 fleets collectively numbering more than one million vehicles represented, it is one of the largest collections of commercial vehicle and fleet decision-maker insights available on the market today.
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About Fleet Advisory Hub™
The results reported come from Escalent’s 2023 Fleet Electrification Brand Landscape Report about commercial vehicle and fleet decision-makers’ manufacturer brand-related sentiments across light passenger, commercial van, commercial pickup truck and medium/heavy-duty vehicle segments. These results comprise a subset of commercial vehicle and fleet decision-makers drawn from the Fleet Advisory Hub audience. Participants were recruited from an opt-in online panel of business decision-makers and interviewed online. Escalent will supply the exact wording of any survey question upon request.