Thursday, July 18, 2024
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Poll says Americans want cheaper, longer-range electric cars

The secret of marketing, according to those who should know about such things, is finding out what customers want and then giving it to them. Seems easy enough, but it’s not easy to do. Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, had a different philosophy. He said: “People don’t know what they want until you show them. That’s why I never rely on market research. Our job is to read things that aren’t already on the page.”

The EV revolution is crucial for reducing carbon emissions, but that doesn’t mean everyone wants to run out and buy an electric car right away. Consumers need to be educated about these newfangled devices, and manufacturers need to be educated about what their customers want.

Deloitte is a global consulting firm whose mission is to help business leaders discover what their clients want. It creates surveys and then sells the results to the companies willing to pay for them. It just released its rather flamboyantly named 2022 Global Automotive Consumer Study.

According to The Drive, it surveyed 927 “driving-age Americans” (not necessarily people in the market for a new car) and found that 69% of them wanted 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 at all interested in buying a battery electric vehicle.

Photo credit: Deloitte

But if they were considering a BEV, it would have to have a range of 518 miles and cost no more than a conventional car. What that means is not entirely clear. Business Insider reported this week that the median price of a new car in the US just surpassed $47,000. Gone are the days of entry-level cars under $10,000. Dare we say that there are many electric cars in the US market right this minute that can be had for less than $47,000? You could say that some consumers protest too much when it comes to the old duck that electric vehicles are so expensive that only wealthy people can afford them.

One issue that concerned many Americans who took part in the survey was what they felt was the high cost of installing an electric car charger at home. This is a subject that defies easy analysis. Many manufacturers like Hyundai and Ford have programs in place to help EV customers install home chargers, but it’s impossible to say exactly how much each installation will cost.

Much depends on the individual circumstances of the customer. If a home lags behind with 100 amp service, there may not be room for a new 50 amp breaker to power an EV charger. Upgrading the power supply can be a costly affair. The distance from the entry panel to the garage can be a major expense when installing a charger, especially when foundations need to be broken to run cables.

On the other hand, not everyone needs a 50 amp circuit to charge an electric car. If a 30 amp outlet for an EV dryer is available, a proud new EV owner can simply purchase a splitter from NeoCharge or another company that plugs directly in and powers both the dryer and the charging cable that comes with each EV. No electrician to pay. No EV charger to buy.

An interesting point the poll found was that only 11% of Americans believe they would use a public charger, calling into question the Biden administration’s push to install half a million electric vehicle chargers nationwide. Many said they would charge at work – which assumes a.) they actually don’t drive to work anymore and b.) their employer has installed chargers for employees or will soon.

Global Insights

The Deloitte survey received responses from more than 26,000 people in 25 countries. The results show a wide range of attitudes, which differ significantly from country to country. Below is a summary of the key findings of the survey.

Photo credit: Deloitte

The survey revealed that while most customers expect more advanced technology in their cars, they really don’t want to pay for it. “Consumer willingness to pay for advanced technologies, including alternative powertrains and vehicle connectivity, is limited in most global markets,” Deloitte said. For those interested in driving an electric car, lower running costs and a desire to help fight global warming are top considerations.

Globally, the vast majority of buyers are at a loss because of car dealerships. Many say they like to order a car online but prefer to pick it up at a local dealer. This may indicate a degree of uneasiness with the traditional haggling that takes place at many new dealerships, but a desire to know that someone is nearby who can service their car and fix things if necessary.

Americans are the world leaders in preferring to drive rather than relying on public transportation or chauffeur services. A full 76% say they have little or no interest in getting around other than in their own vehicle. In India, that number drops to 43%. Cultural considerations undoubtedly play a role in this, as America has historically preferred streets and parking lots to alternatives.

76% of people in China said they would be open to a subscription service that bundles all the costs of owning and driving a car into one monthly fee. In the US, about a third of those surveyed said they were interested in a subscription model.

take that away

There seems to be some contradiction in American attitudes. Most conventional vehicles sold in the US can’t go 500 miles on a full tank, 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 some level of cognitive dissonance. Coupled with the fact that the vehicles most Americans prefer – light pickups and SUVs – can cost 60,000, 70,000, or even more, the complaint about how expensive electric vehicles are sounds hollow.

Maybe Steve Jobs was right. Ignore what people say they want. Show them what you have to offer and make them change their mind. Demand will follow. Deloitte data suggests that America is still a long way from embracing electric cars, but public perceptions may change in a short period of time. The thing no one knew they wanted — the smartphone — made Apple the most valuable company in history. What people say they want and what they actually buy are often two different things.

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