AutoTrader Media launched a new platform called TheCharge.ca to help bridge the gap between the rising consumer interest around electric vehicles, and the many barriers preventing them from actually following through on their intent to purchase.
In an interview with Canadian auto dealer, Jim (James) Ranson, VP of National Sales at AutoTrade Media—part of AutoTrader.ca—said the company conducted surveys around EVs for the past three years and began to notice a disconnect between their data and Canadian consumer intent.
“Each time the survey landed in the first quarter of the year and every year we saw that there was a disconnect between the growing intent or interest in EVs on our website, versus what we actually saw in terms of sales figures and people actually going through and purchasing an EV,” said Ranson.
After reviewing the latest survey, the company decided to take action and launch the website to help consumers better understand, shop, and adopt EVs.
AutoTrader’s latest study shows that while less than one in 10 Canadian consumers own an electric vehicle—29% are open to buying one, 35% are maybe open to buying an EV, and 36% are not open to purchasing an electric vehicle. Which means 64% of survey respondents can be considered potential buyers.
“We looked around the market and saw that there wasn’t really a website, which was dedicated to the consumer and that really addressed the gap between that intent and overall outcome,” said Ranson.
However, there are a number of barriers for consumers to follow-through on their intent. For example, the study shows that the perceived higher purchasing cost and limited travel range (61%) is an issue for consumers, along with possible lags in charging station infrastructure (54%), and a lack of understanding regarding maintenance costs (28%).
“There seems to be a significant number of barriers to consumers actually making that purchase and following through on that intent,” said Ranson. “And as the survey and the research suggested, range was the highest up there at 61% in terms of a concern around purchasing EV costs. And the additional cost of EVs was also 61%.”
On the plus side, 83% see the fuel cost efficiency as a benefit, along with the fact that EVs are more environmentally friendly (70%).
And yet, when considering the rapid deployment of many new EV and hybrid models from OEMs, the federal government’s goal of selling 100% new zero-emission vehicles by 2035, and the rising tide of interest in EVs from the consumers, there is “clearly a missing link” between all of these things on the supply side of consumer interest. But from a sales point of view, Ranson said that trend does not seem to be playing out.
“We’re only seeing a very low penetration of new query details. So there was clearly a gap. It had not been addressed in terms of a platform to link the consumer—to allow them to make an informed and accurate choice about whether an EV or hybrid would fit into their lifestyle,” said Ranson.
“That’s what we attempted to address through our work this year, which was to go through a stage of ideation, create a platform, which we think serves a real purpose, and to help the consumer make the right purchasing decision for them when it comes to their next car,” he adds.
Ranson also said TheCharge.ca is not just entirely pro-EV and hybrid; it also aims to offer a balanced view about whether or not this type of vehicle is right for the consumer and their lifestyle. And in some cases it may not be the right choice. However, the website does focus on people for whom EVs or hybrids are a viable alternative.
Here, it is worth noting that the study found that online video, third-party review sites, and OEMs are the top information sources for potential buyers, in terms of learning more about EVs. When divided by group, they represent 47% for OEM websites, 27% for dealerships, 35% for online automotive marketplaces, 51% for third-party review websites, blogs and forums.
Outside of that, 44% will look to specialized automotive publications, 19% towards social media, 58% will review online video websites, and 27% will speak to friends and family as a source of information.
For Ranson, the important thing is the information consumers receive.
“It would be great to think that when these consumers step into the showroom, they’re able to have a clear sense of what they want and they understand the technology behind it,” said Ranson. “Therefore, the barriers for those dealers are being reduced by the education that we can provide to those consumers.”