The secret to marketing, according to those who are supposed to know about such things, is to find out what customers want and then give it to them. Seems simple enough, but it’s not simple to do. Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, had a different philosophy. He said, “People don’t know what they want until you show it to them. That’s why I never rely on market research. Our task is to read things that are not yet on the page.”
The EV revolution is crucial to reducing carbon dioxide emissions, but that doesn’t mean everyone wants to rush right out and buy an electric car. Consumers need to be educated about these newfangled contraptions, and manufacturers need to be educated about what their customers want.
Deloitte is a global consulting company whose mission is to help business leaders learn what their customers want. It creates surveys and then sells the results to the companies who are willing to pay for them. It has just released its rather grandly named 2022 Global Automotive Consumer Study.
According to The Drive, it surveyed 927 Americans “of driving age” (not necessarily people in the market for a new car) and found 69% of them want nothing to do with hybrids, plug-in hybrids, or battery electric vehicles — just good old fashioned internal combustion engines for them, please and thank you. In fact, only 5% said they were interested in buying a battery-electric vehicle at all.
But if they were to consider a BEV, it would need to have 518 miles of range and cost no more than a conventional car. What that means is not exactly clear. Business Insider this week reported the average price of a new car in the US has just passed the $47,000 mark. The days of the entry level car priced below $10,000 are long gone. Dare we say that there are plenty of electric cars available in the US market right now this very minute that can be had for less than $47,000? One could say that when it comes to the old canard about how EVs are so expensive that only wealthy people can afford them, some consumers doth protest too much.
One item that concerned many Americans who responded to the survey was what they perceive to be the high cost of installing a charger for an electric car at home. This is a topic that defies easy analysis. Many manufacturers like Hyundai and Ford have established programs to help EV customers get home chargers installed, but it is impossible to say specifically how much each installation will cost.
A lot depends on the customer’s individual circumstances. If a home is limping along with 100 amp service, there may not be room for a new 50 amp breaker to power an EV charger. Upgrading the electrical service can be an expensive proposition. The distance from the entry panel to the garage can be a big factor in the cost of installing a charger, particularly if there are foundations that need to be breached to run wires.
On the other hand, not everyone needs a 50 amp circuit to charge an electric car. If there is a 30 amp outlet for an electric dryer available, a proud new EV owner can simply purchase a splitter from NeoCharge or other company that plugs right in and provides electricity to both the dryer and the charging cable that comes with every EV. No electrician to pay. No EV charger to buy.
One interesting item the survey found was that only 11% of Americans think they would use a public charger, which calls into question the Biden administration’s push for installing half a million EV chargers all across the country. Many said they would charge at work — which assumes a.) that they actually drive to work any more and b.) that their employer has installed chargers for employees or will do so soon.
The Deloitte survey got responses from more than 26,000 people in 25 countries. The results show a wide range of attitudes that differ markedly from country to country. Below is a summary of the major findings from the survey.
The survey found that while most customers expect more advanced technologies in their cars, they really don’t want to pay for them. “Consumer willingness to pay for advanced technologies, including alternative powertrains and vehicle connectivity, is limited in most global markets,” Deloitte says. For those who are interested in driving an electric car, lower costs of ownership and a desire to help in the battle to fight global warming are primary considerations.
Worldwide, the vast majority of shoppers are in a quandary about car dealers. Many say they are happy to order a car online, but prefer to pick it up from a local dealer. This may indicate a level of discomfort with the traditional haggling the takes place in many new car showrooms, but a desire to know there is someone nearby who can service their car and fix things if needed.
Americans lead the world when it comes to preferring to drive themselves rather than relying on public transportation or ride-hailing services. Fully 76% report little to no interest in getting around other than by private vehicle. That number drops to 43% in India. No doubt cultural issues play a role in that, as America has historically favored roads and parking lots over the alternatives.
76% of people in China said they would be open to a subscription service that bundles all the costs of owning and driving an automobile into one monthly fee. In the US, about a third of respondents said they would be interested in a subscription model.
There seem to be some contradictions in American attitudes. Most conventional vehicles for sale in the US can’t drive for 500 miles on a tank of gas and yet they expect electric cars to go that far. Since the average American drives less than 30 miles a day, the need for a 500 mile vehicle seems to indicate a degree of cognitive dissonance. Couple that with the fact that the vehicles most Americans prefer — light duty pickup trucks and SUVS — can cost $60,000, $70,000, or even more, the complaint about how expensive EVs are rings hollow.
Perhaps Steve Jobs was correct. Ignore what people say they want. Show them what you have to offer and let them adjust their thinking. The demand will follow. The Deloitte data suggests America is still a long way from embracing electric cars, yet public perception can change in a heartbeat. That thing nobody knew they wanted — the smartphone — made Apple the most valuable business corporation in history. What people say they want and what they actually buy are often two different things.
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