After years of pushing boundaries and innovating new hybrid and fuel-cell technologies, automotive brands are finally ready to embrace all-electric cars. Toyota, the market leader in vehicle unit sales across the GCC and maker of the “Prius” is forecasting annual sales of 5.5 million EVs globally by 2025. In Europe, the ongoing headwinds for diesel technology as well as increasing interest in EVs also contributed to market growth of 40% from 2016 to 2017. On a country level, the regional momentum emerged from Germany, which stands out as Europe’s second-largest EV market, outperformed only by Norway, where the critical mass for adoption has been achieved.
Closer to home and despite the Middle East’s reputation for pioneering the adoption of electric cars, a recent study conducted by the research team at Choueiri Group (Focused on EV category dynamics and consumer perceptions) revealed a number of key barriers which are likely to prevent mass adoption. These are namely ‘safety’ and ‘anxiety’ over battery technology. What’s more important is that these concerns seem to be emerging from people who clearly have limited knowledge of EVs, with respondents specifically citing battery range, lack of EV infrastructure, the time required to charge a battery, along with the perceptions of the cars being unsafe, expensive, or complicated in terms of maintenance.
But let’s be clear: EVs are just as safe to drive as fuel-powered vehicles. Iron-Phosphate batteries for example are fire-safe, even though they might be slightly less energy-dense. They can also be cycled over 7000 cycles (Source: Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers), which means that they can be fully discharged every day for a life span of 20 plus years. We have batteries today that will safely outlive the vehicles which they run. Concerns therefore regarding longevity (lifespan of batteries) are no longer justified.
The beauty of all-electric vehicles, besides being environmentally friendly, lies in their simplicity. All-electric vehicles have 30 percent fewer parts, when compared to a standard internal combustion engine. They are also more reliable and require less maintenance, in part because they consume fewer fluids (less to change out).
While it might be true that early model all-electric cars had battery issues or suffered from range limitations, this is no longer the case with the new EV lines.
In order for electric vehicles to gain wider adoption by regional consumers, a mindset change needs to occur. Our research shows that the major obstacles to accelerated customer acquisition are actually incorrect perceptions, centered on safety and battery technology. Brands, along with their communication partners must work towards shifting attitudes, so that potential buyers become comfortable including EV’s into their consideration set. Brands therefore, need to leverage educational components in their communications and even go back to basics to clear up any grey areas for their customers and build greater familiarity. Moreover, brands (depending on their regional penetration requirements) need to address other associated concerns related to EV ownership, such as availability and access to EV infrastructure and operational ease. Brands also need to consider employing both emotional and functional triggers across their creative platforms. Our research showed that while customers were interested in EVs for their environmental benefits, high-tech features and the fabled smooth, instant-torque driving experience, they were also interested in lowering their fuel and maintenance costs (functional triggers). Brands who are about to enter the competitive arena could focus on high-interest USPs including super-fast charging batteries, spaciousness (5+ seats), other cutting-edge technologies such as autonomous driving and charging status apps.
The funnel marketing approach has proven to be beneficial to EV brands. EV brands could strategize their communications to effectively boost their brand-equity, while in parallel implement performance marketing techniques through different channels. Spreading word-of-mouth through loyalty and referral programs can also make a noticeable impact, as the vast majority of EV owners or even test-drivers, recommended EVs to their friends/family, who were on the path to purchasing a vehicle.
From an advertising perspective, the research revealed that video content served as the greatest source of awareness for EVs, with TV and digital being the two most favored touchpoints. This leads us to recommend a cross-platform video strategy for building greater awareness. This would also provide brands with the opportunity to educate audiences with an aim of shifting their mindsets.
About the Research:
An online quantitative assessment was carried out using digital surveys, conducted in the UAE (n=1,145), Jordan (n=1,654) and Morocco (n=2,138), interviewing 25+ year olds with driving licenses.