Making the switch to an electric vehicle (EV) future requires things like batteries and electric motors, but it also means finding buyers who are willing to put down their own money for a newfangled EV. A new study by J.D. Power suggests a window of opportunity for automakers to create new EV owners, especially if they have some first-hand experience with EVs or are into luxury vehicles.
In December 2020 and January 2021, J.D. Power surveyed over 9,000 U.S. consumers who intend to buy a new vehicle in the next year about their opinions of EVs. The most important finding is that 59% of people who plan to buy a new car in 2021 have not yet made up their minds about EVs, saying they are either "somewhat likely" or "somewhat unlikely" to buy an electric vehicle this year. That shows a fair amount of uncertainty about which powertrain car shoppers will be choosing in 2021.
Among people who have already owned or leased an EV, 46% say they are "very likely" to consider another one. J.D. Power found that prior ownership of, or even driving experience in, an EV is not necessary to generate higher interest with consumers. The study found 20% of potential car shoppers who have ever ridden in an EV were "very likely" to consider buying one this year. Compare that to just 7% of people who say they've never ridden in an EV, let alone driven or owned one.
J.D. Power has some advice to automakers building EVs. "Anything stakeholders can do to get more people into electric vehicles, whether it's experiential events, take-home test drives, or other proactive efforts, will help break down the preconceptions people have about BEVs and drive higher consideration," said Stewart Stropp, senior director of automotive retail at J.D. Power, in a statement.
The study found that half of the respondents said they'd never been inside an EV, which means events that get people to learn about EVs from current owners, like Drive Electric Week, can serve as a strong impetus for new EV sales. Since 2012, Nissan is the only automaker to sponsor Drive Electric Week.
Upscale shoppers were also more likely to be interested in EVs than mainstream brand buyers, with Tesla topping the list of marques under consideration. Also, if someone currently owns a premium-brand vehicle, they're more than twice as likely to be interested in an EV than someone who drives a mass-market brand (36% compared to 15%).
That could be good news for luxury brands ranging from Acura to Volvo, all of which are working toward the electrification of their future lineups, with some further ahead than others.