How much does loyalty to a major brand — or at least the status of various brands — limit the transition to electric vehicles from Tesla, Dyson, e.Go, etc.? On the other hand, how much does dissatisfaction with conventional automakers drive customers to such automotive newcomers? How much do legacy automotive brands keep the door shut to newcomers like Tesla versus invite the disruptors in?
A great cleantech leader and early EV adopter recently shared an unfortunate story with me, but it’s one many of us can surely relate to. His wife decided to get a BMW 5 Series rather than a Tesla Model S. It makes no sense to many of us. Why would you do it? How could anyone make that decision, let alone a close family member of an EV and renewable energy leader? Yet, all of us can probably in one way or another relate to the story.
Image by nakhon100 (some rights reserved)
For various reasons, but most especially environmental reasons, CleanTechnica readers and writers are early adopters of cleantech. Many of us have not been early adopters otherwise — we’re just driven by the moral imperative to do our part, and by the concern that if it’s not “too late,” it could be soon. But that is not the majority, and no matter how much some of us talk about it and work on it, other humans near us aren’t guaranteed to come to the same conclusions and feel the same moral imperative and urgency.
This story was striking to me in part because of how unfortunately surprising it was, but also in part because I can imagine several people very close to me making the same decision. Yes, the director of CleanTechnica is no exception — there are people in my close orbit who I can’t get to understand the importance of the climate crisis, or how nonsensical cars that pollute our kids’ lungs and hearts are. Many people I know still don’t understand why these things should override whatever “deal” you can get on a non-electric luxury car and whatever concerns you have about needing to charge the car away from home.
The momentum of what’s “normal,” the psychological impediments to being different, and the fear of change are barriers I have never been able to relate a great deal to. But these are very real and very powerful.
So, I was extra interested when a German reader and colleague shared another story with me right after I received the news above. The story was about a survey on automotive brand trust, loyalty, and especially resilience among Germans. The results are surprising for several reasons.
Somehow, Audi is #1*. That’s funny to me, in part, because my first car was an Audi, and the company’s reputation (which has stuck with me) wasn’t grand at the time in the place I lived. I bought it in the 1990s in Florida, and I quickly found out the company had quite a poor reputation for quality and value for the money, but I liked the car. I’m not sure how Audi is viewed in the US today, but it is apparently the darling of Germany … even after parent company Volkswagen Group got busted for a massive diesel emissions scandal and its executives have been charged with colluding with other German auto company execs for decades to game the system. So, why the brand loyalty? Why is the brand so resilient? I’d presume it’s a combo of: marketing, people liking their cars, press coverage, and jobs (Audi is certainly a major employer in Germany).
The other surprising thing, though, is that Tesla is #2! In Germany! It’s ahead of BMW. It’s ahead of Porsche. It’s ahead of Mercedes. It’s ahead of Mini. It’s ahead of Volkswagen. In Germany!
|Place in 2017||Brand||Points out of 100||Place in 2015|
Source: BrandTrust Resilienz Index
That’s pretty shocking no matter how you look at it, and even after taking the scandal mentioned above into account. It’s a testament to Tesla’s 762-horsepower-strong brand, its reputation for record-shattering performance, and its sustainability-focused mission, which the company proudly and wisely wears on its sleeve.
It’ll be interesting to see how these rankings change in the future as the electric auto industry really heats up. Will Angela Merkel’s concerns come to fruition? Will Tesla become a giant that German automakers have to concede victory to? Will things more or less remain the same?
Tesla’s position actually dropped from #1 in 2015 to #2 in 2017. It’s unclear if the Silicon Valley company took a hit or if Audi just jumped through the roof — and I’m not sure why either of those things would have happened in the past couple of years. But I’d guess that the press again had something to do with the changes.
*Here’s a short summary of the methodology: “The company Brandtrust has determined 40 criteria which have an influence on the resistance and the future viability of brands. These criteria were compiled into ten resilience indicators and formed the basis for the Brandtrust Resiliency Index: 1010 adults aged between 18 and 69 were interviewed.”
Update: After receiving this brief methodology translation above, it seemed to me that the study is more about resiliency, but my German source says it’s overall about trust, and Google translations highlight trust in key parts. That said, a certain anti-Tesla critic on Forbes came to the same conclusion I came to (something I saw after writing this update). His argument is that it’s all about a brand’s “resiliency,” not “trust.” However, that may be getting too pedantic … after all, it’s a deep consumer trust in a brand that leads to long-term resilience, no? Either way, I’ve updated the article in parts to highlight this matter.
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