Start-up automakers like Lucid and Rivian often claim that, as Tesla demonstrates, electric car buyers are open to experimenting with new brands.
This is true for startups, however, it is also true for big automakers like Ford, General Motors and Volkswagen.
For long-time auto companies, new electric vehicles are attracting customers who are not current brand owners, according to data from automotive website Edmunds.com. This means that electric vehicles are attracting those who are always looking for “conquest sales”.
These are sales that not only generate revenue but can create long-term new customers, automakers hope. Sure, if all goes well.
Among buyers of the new Ford Mustang Mach-E, nearly 70% were not yet Ford customers, according to Edmunds.com. For most Ford models, only 42% are trading in a non-Ford vehicle.
For the Chevrolet (GM) brand, the trend is similar. Among buyers of Chevrolet Bolt models, 60% were new to the brand. For most Chevrolet models, just under half were not Chevrolet customers.
At Volkswagen, which sells far fewer vehicles in the United States than Chevrolet or Ford, the difference was smaller but still notable. Among those buying the ID.4 electric SUV, 72% were not current VW customers, compared to 60% of VW buyers overall, according to Edmunds.com.
Things look similar for the new F-150 Lightning pickup truck, said Ford CEO Jim Farley in an interview with CNN Business last August. Among those who bet on the new truck, Farley said 70% to 80% were new to Ford.
So far, the sales figures aren’t huge by the standards of major car brands. Tesla still sells more than any of these automakers’ electric vehicles. In the first nine months of 2021, GM sold approximately 25,000 Bolt EVs and EUVs. Due to a battery recall, GM has not put the Bolt on sale since late August. Ford sold about 18,000 Mach-Es and VW 12,000 ID.4s.
The competitive brands that people are dealing with range from other conventional brands like Toyota, especially to Mach-E, luxury brands like BMW and Audi. Toyota was the most commonly traded brand, though it still represented only about 10% at most.
Winning new customers is good for any automaker. But the ultimate goal is to keep those customers when they’re ready to move on to the next vehicle. For customers who have purchased an electric vehicle, that will likely mean another electric vehicle, said Tyson Jominy, vice president of data analytics at JD Power.
“They remain very loyal to EVs in general,” he said of owners of vehicles like the Chevrolet Bolt.
The “sales achievements” benefits of having new SUVs won’t last forever, said JD Power’s Jominy. Eventually, new electric cars will just be more new cars, and customers will settle into familiar buying habits having once again established their favorite brands.
Just as an automaker reaps the benefits of exchanging its old electric vehicles for new ones, it will mean a smaller percentage of new customers.
The Nissan Leaf is a perfect example. In 2012, 80% of Leaf buyers were new to Nissan, according to Edmunds.com. Back then, the Leaf was almost the only EV most Americans could buy, with Tesla just starting production on the Model S.
Today, Leaf has a lot more competition, and only 50% of its buyers are new to the brand. This is mainly because many Leaf customers are now swapping their old Leafs for new ones, said Ivan Drury, industry analyst at Edmunds.com.
Nissan disputed these numbers, saying that 50% to 60% of Leaf buyers have consistently come from outside the brand since the model’s launch.
The first challenge, then, is that automakers need to have other electric vehicles available to customers who are ready to move to, say, something bigger or more luxurious.
Car buyers, whether looking at electric vehicles or not, tend to fixate on the type of object they want, and an automaker that doesn’t have them will be passed over, said Michelle Krebs, an industry analyst at Autotrader.
“SUV buyers are going to buy SUVs, so will there be another SUV EV coming when the lease ends?” she says.
GM has more electric models coming, but in the short term it has no electric vehicles to sell at the moment. The Bolt EV and EUV have been temporarily withdrawn from the market as GM works to replace the batteries of Bolts that are already on the road following a previous battery recall.
“GM has committed to introducing more than 30 new EVs by 2025, leveraging our Ultium platform, so we hope Bolt customers will stay with us as we work through the recall repair process and also continue to find EVs that meet their needs in the future. ,” said GM spokeswoman Kelly Cusinato.
The first and most important task, however, is to ensure that the customer is satisfied with the electric vehicle they have just purchased. Fortunately for GM, Chevrolet Bolt owners interviewed by CNN Business they always said they were happy with the vehicle itself, despite the sometimes overwhelming inconvenience of the recall.
The Ford Mustang Mach-E has also received critical acclaim and seems likely to create happy customers, Drury said. “You’re not buying a Ford GT (supercar) but you’re buying something they’ve invested a lot of money in to be successful,” he said.
In addition, customers need to have a positive experience at the dealership, he said, especially those who may have traded in a luxury car. They would have become accustomed to a level of service rarely found at conventional branded car dealerships.
“It can be shocking to a degree,” he said. “The hope is that the vehicle can make up for any disappointments.”
*(Translated text. Click here to read the original, in English)
Reference: CNN Brasil