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Big Automakers Doing Practically Nothing To Advertise Electric Cars (Study)

Major auto manufacturers are doing practically nothing to advertise the plug-in electric vehicles that they sell, whether in California (as compliance vehicles) or elsewhere, according to a new study commissioned by the Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management (NESCAUM).

Major auto manufacturers are doing practically nothing to advertise the plug-in electric vehicles that they sell, whether in California (as compliance vehicles) or elsewhere, according to a new study commissioned by the Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management (NESCAUM).

The study was performed by CompetiTrack and Motor Intelligence, both respected firms involved in auto industry advertising analysis, it should be noted.

It should also be noted here that the study relates to calendar year 2015, the most recent year in which detailed data was available at the time of the research. As the graph above shows, BMW seems to be something of an outlier, though the sums involved are still chump change for the company and compared to the advertising budgets for BMW’s internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles. It’s still interesting, though, and likely means that the company is making a fair margin on their electric offerings. It also helps to explain BMW’s clear EV sales split leadership among big automakers (see: “BMW & Ford Electric Car Sales = 6% Of BMW & Ford US Car Sales In November“).

Update: Via Loren McDonald (prompted by Matt), note how BMW’s EV/PHEV advertising relates to overall advertising: “BMW spent $314.1 million on advertising in the U.S. in 2015.  In 2015, BMW group sold 346,023 total vehicles in the US. They sold 14,181 EVs/PHEVs, or 4.1% of total sales. The $25 million ad dollars spent on EVs is 7.96% of the $314.1 million ad spend. So they are actually spending more ad dollars on EVs comparatively.”

Also see Loren’s comments regarding how $25 million fits into the grand scheme of auto company advertising (key stat: it’s 0.34% of ad spending) and a few bright spots.

Our sister site Gas 2 provides more:

“Overall, the industry has adopted a head in the sand approach to electric cars. Carmakers spend billions every year to advertise their products, but in 2015, the total spent nationwide on EV advertising was under $25 million. According to my trusty Radio Shack calculator, that is a little more than 1% of the total budget. And you want us to believe you are doing everything in your power to promote electric cars? Please. You people lie almost as much as Donald Trump.

“People marvel at how Elon Musk and Tesla Motors are disrupting the automotive industry, but it’s really no secret. The industry is doing everything it can to help Tesla succeed. It’s not that Tesla is so good — although their products are superior — it’s that the rest of the industry is so bad at recognizing the changes that are staring them right in the face.”

This is also a gem of a comment from Steve: “Instead of recognizing what Tesla is doing and adapting to it, the American car companies are trying their hardest to block Tesla’s direct-to-customer sales model and whining to anyone who will listen that nobody wants to buy electric cars except a few wealthy tech geeks. When the dust from the revolution settles, it may turn out that one or more of the Big Three car companies is already dead and just doesn’t know it yet.”

To be fair, though, that sounds like a description of the vast majority of what goes on in the modern world — across countries, industries, and political parties. It’s a lot easier to come up with excuses, to oversimplify, and to live in an echo chamber (aided by flashing lights on screens and drugs, prescription ones included) than it is to change one’s behavior and actually fundamentally change things in the real world.

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James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.


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