EV buyers

Popular media would have us believe that the automotive industry is on a smooth and rapid transition to EVs. At the same time, governments across the globe set execution dates for the internal combustion engine. But the radical transformation of anything that’s been around for a century involves patience and a good dose of reality. A new CDK Global study, The Charged Truth About Electric Vehicles, uncovers the habits and attitudes of today’s EV buyers. It also delivers what dealers face moving forward in this brave new world.

Understanding EV buyers

CDK interviewed more than 1,100 EV buyers to determine what makes these consumers tick. Unsurprisingly, it’s an upscale bunch, with 90% having at least a bachelor’s degree and 57% making over $100,000 a year. 

There’s also a youthful aspect to buying an EV. According to the U.S. Federal Reserve, the average age of a new car buyer is 53. But, CDK notes that 75% of EV purchasers are under 45. Another difference separating the conventional and EV consumer is how the vehicle is paid for. Statista says 81.2% of all car buyers finance their purchases, compared to 62% of non-Tesla EV customers. Curiously, 55% of Tesla owners in the survey paid cash.

Distinctions continue when it comes to leasing. In the overall market, 19.2% of new vehicles are leased, reports the Wall Street Journal. But, only 8% of EVs leave the manufacturer with a lease. And in another twist, none of the surveyed Tesla owners lease their vehicles. 

This all ties in with a different outlook on car buying among EV shoppers; they’re in it for the long haul. Further, these consumers consider EVs more of a technology play than an environmental one. Although, keeping the planet clean still ranks high among the incentives to go all-electric.

Related: EV owners unsatisfied with public charging experience, J.D. Power study finds

Enthusiasm doesn’t breed loyalty

Today’s EV buyer is enthusiastic about skipping the internal combustion engine; 98% make their EV the daily driver. This approach takes into account that 82% own a second vehicle. But loyalty to a specific brand could be a notion of the past.

One comment cited in the study tells the industry not to confuse gusto with brand faithfulness. “I have no loyalty when it comes to EV, because electric is a new kind of unproven thing. It’s a new market so it’s anybody’s game. Having said that, I do have brand loyalty when it comes to gasoline vehicles.”

People seem more inclined to remain true to their mobile phone brand than to EV makers.

Hybrid car photo created by frimufilms

What’s discouraging EV buyers?

Range anxiety is talked about as much as the weather or football on a Monday, but this wasn’t the key reason for passing on an EV. Particularly among Millennial and Gen X buyers, the primary dissuader was accessibility to charging; 40% of consumers held off buying an EV until they had a garage. 

Think about this for a minute. Adding an EV charger to a home garage is a simple solution, but living in a high-rise without a charging option (or with a single shared charger) is a deal-breaker from the outset.

There’s also a perspective among almost half (46%) of ICE shoppers who have no plans to buy an EV now or in the foreseeable future. In other words, there’s still a sizable chunk of car buyers who’ll stick to conventional motoring until the gas pumps run dry. 

There’s still a role for dealers in the EV world

While high-profile EV players like Tesla, Lucid, and Rivian take the direct sales route, conventional dealerships still play a fundamental role in EV purchases. 76% of EV buyers visited a showroom to kick tires or complete the transaction. That compares to 12% who started and ended the buying journey entirely online. Another 12% kept it old school by shopping and buying an EV solely in person. 

Sales staff also play a crucial role in converting the ICE faithful into EV believers. 26% of ICE shoppers considered an EV thanks to the efforts of dealer personnel. And 88% of this group cite a salesperson for educating them about the EV option. 

Notably, CDK reports that one-third of EV-resistant car shoppers said sales staff advised them about their gasless vehicle options. That is to say, frontline employees are embracing the changing marketplace. 

Naysayers predict the demise of traditional dealers, but there’s one statistic from the study that says otherwise. 94% of non-Tesla EV buyers made at least one visit to a dealership.

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