But people are interpreting this in different ways.
Every year, Autolist releases the results of its Electric Vehicle Survey, but what it found this year is something quite interesting. Amidst all the positive writeups about how consumer concerns about EVs are supposedly relaxing, plus the issue of poor shoppers feeling “left behind” in the trend, there’s another story that isn’t getting as much attention.
Autolist’s writeup mentions this factor in passing: “In 2023, more people said they don’t see themselves owning an EV than did in 2022.” This was framed as really a function of people believing they can’t afford an electric car more than anything. A lack of access to charging stations and overall unfamiliarity with EVs were also cited as reasons for fueling this uptick.
If that last reason cited seems off to you, well you’re not alone. We also found that in 2023 when there are more Teslas and other electric vehicles rolling around the country than ever, more people just aren’t that familiar with them.
More importantly, we feel this might be highlighting an issue we’ve been seeing crop up repeatedly: EV demand is softening because most of the people who wanted one have taken the plunge. With the price war Tesla started and is continuing, combined with government incentives to help ensure we all get to pay for people’s luxury purchases, a lot of consumers who were on the fence about getting an EV now have one in their garage.
That might sound fantastic, but it presents a problem. Most Americans don’t really want an electric car. While the industry can blame the lack of affordable options, we feel it goes much deeper than that, although price is definitely a consideration for many.
Another indication of this phenomenon is used EV prices plummeting recently. With the price war going on, a lot of consumers who would’ve bought used just got a new electric car. Since other people shopping for a pre-owned vehicle aren’t interested in an EV, demand fell off a cliff.
Interest rates aren’t helping on the affordability side of things, which probably explains why Tesla is now offering an 84-month financing option. While that’s not a great financial decision for so many reasons, we have no doubt people are snapping up a Model 3 using that so they can look good to their friends, neighbors, and extended family. Eventually, people willing to exercise that option will run thin as well.
That means an awful lot of marketing focus will be turned on us holdouts. Tesla has announced recently it might start running ads to drum up more business. Expect other automakers to preach to you plebs why not getting an EV is misinformed, ruining the Earth, and makes you look backwards. We expect a fair number of rather tone deaf marketing examples which might actually steel holdouts’ resolve to never buy an electric car. In other words, this might backfire.
Ultimately, we’d take the Autolist survey with a grain of salt. Why? It comes down to methodology. You see, any survey or poll is only as good as the methodology employed. In this case, Autolist gathered responses from 3,100 “car shoppers” on its website and app. Response surveys are always problematic because of the self-selection process, but only a certain section of the populace is even going to be on the Autolist site or especially the app. If we had to guess, those people are going to be more pro-EV than what you find in the real world. In other words, if we were running an automaker, we wouldn’t make any big moves based on this data.
Still, the portion of the survey results which points to an increase in people who think they’ll never own an EV squares with other indicators we’ve seen lately that a good portion of the population are exhausted with the electrification push, probably for a myriad of reasons. Automakers that fail to realize this could be facing big problems in the future.
Images via Kia, Ford, Nissan, GM