Electric vehicle sales record, but knowledge gaps remain
Sales of electric cars in the UK are booming. Around 190,000 were sold in 2021, despite the widely publicized issues around global supply chains. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) annual sales report for 2021 showed that more battery electric cars were registered in 2021 than in the years 2016-2020 combined.
While gas-powered car sales have stagnated, battery-electric cars accounted for about 12% of total sales last year. With the drive to achieve net zero carbon emissions, this is an industry that will continue to grow, with an expected global market value of $2.495 billion by 2027 according to Meticulous Research.
In light of this growing sector, Teads has partnered with Kantar to research the consumer trends driving these purchases and to shed light on the EV audience. Our research found that almost a third of electric vehicle buyers (those considering a hybrid or plug-in electric car for their next vehicle) are under 35 years old. In comparison, the intention of people under 35 for petrol cars is only slightly higher at one in 10.
This suggests that new entrants to the automotive market are more willing to try new technologies or make their first purchase of an electric vehicle.
Top Buying Drivers
So what are the key factors for buying or leasing an electric vehicle? Unsurprisingly, environmental concerns are the main driver. The race to cut carbon emissions has been well documented and the climate emergency has received more airtime than ever before. As brands and consumers aim for a more sustainable future, it’s no surprise that owning a low-carbon car has become desirable for many.
But environmental concerns aren’t the only reasons people give for wanting an electric vehicle; stewards also cited benefits in fuel and cost savings. These factors are so attractive that EV buyers are willing to pay more for a new car than they would for a conventionally fueled equivalent. More than two-thirds are ready to pay up to 10% premium for their electric vehicle.
However, half of electric vehicle buyers are still concerned about battery life (or “range”) and almost a third also cite a lack of knowledge as a potential barrier to purchase, with 32% saying not understanding all the benefits of buying an electric car.
There is also an association gap between automakers and electric vehicle production, with only a handful of brands associated with plug-in electric vehicles. Tesla was well ahead in our survey, with 48% associating them with plug-in electric vehicles, more than double the score of second-placed Nissan at just 21%.
Brands clearly have a key role to play in educating consumers about the benefits of electric vehicles and allaying some of the consumer fears about battery life and charging points. Brands also need to invest in building their association with electric vehicles, to stay relevant and capitalize on the opportunity. If done successfully, there are great rewards to be had; Last year, Tesla’s Model 3 became the first electric car to break into the SMMT’s top 10 overall sales, coming in second behind the Vauxhall Corsa.
Brands’ digital presences provide a great opportunity to engage with consumers: 51% of first-time electric vehicle buyers said a brand’s website had grown in importance during the pandemic to research their buying decisions . Early in the process, UK car consumers are more likely to visit the brand’s website before contacting the dealership. The importance of the brand’s digital presence has increased in the wake of Covid, with 51% of electric vehicle buyers saying they are interested in going through the entire rental or purchase process online.
Consumer Information Sources
Brands need to make the most of this digital opportunity and drive consumers to their sites, to increase awareness of their models and features. They can also use this opportunity to educate potential buyers on the benefits of electric vehicles, while allaying potential concerns.
The open web provides a great opportunity to engage with EV buyers. They read a variety of content; their top five categories are news, home and garden, technology, travel and sports – with news articles (64%) coming out on top. Importantly for advertisers, news sites are considered an important source of information and are 1.8 times more influential than social media in the purchase decision process of electric vehicle buyers.
When brands communicate with potential owners of electric vehicles, our research has shown that consumers place more importance on having the latest technology in their car, compared to those who intend to buy conventional fuel cars. . But, in many ways, the basic needs are not that different from other fuel types, with driving performance, brand reputation and appearance heavily influencing the decision-making process.
The desire to increase the number of electric vehicles on our roads should continue this year. Last year’s record sales were still achieved despite global supply chain issues that plagued auto manufacturing. In a follow-up survey, we found that 82% of UK car buyers were aware of chip shortages and their impact on purchases. As global supply chains straighten out, this will be one less hurdle for future electric vehicle owners to overcome.
Time is running out for carmakers to build their association with electric vehicles, as there are now less than eight years to go before the UK government plans to phase out the sale of petrol and diesel cars, to help meet the UK’s pledge. UK of a net zero carbon economy by 2050.