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Let’s Leave Behind Electric Vehicle Tunnel Vision

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Automotive innovation is only speeding up as we head into 2024, but it might not look that way when focusing on electric vehicles. In the last few months of 2023, it seemed the headlines were only filled with bad news about OEMs who had invested in EVs and struggled to get them off the lots. It’s important to lose our tunnel vision when thinking about the EV transformation – it is too limiting to only think about EVs when assessing the broader landscape of automotive innovation, even though it is such a transformative and important change.

Why Is There Such a Struggle?

Aside from the usual suspects – infrastructure, batteries, charging anxiety – part of the issue with EV adoption is unfortunately due to the top-down pressure from the government with benchmarks and goals for OEMs and dealers. Especially in the United States, these mandates and policies were widely disliked, as many felt they had not been completely thought through, or at the very least, lacked a certain understanding of consumer preferences and needs in different geographies.

EV penetration is around 7.5% in the United States, and that rise has begun to plateau. We have exhausted the early adopters of technology and need to convert the consumers who make up the masses, but the gap between the two groups is very wide. Even since the summer, the demand and supply shift with EVs has become increasingly difficult for OEMs and dealers to manage. Today, there are backlogs of EVs that are driving steep incentives: In 2022, the average price of an EV was $66k, and today, that has dropped to $51k.

Of course, the perspective on this issue varies widely by demographic. In my conversations with dealers in certain locations like San Francisco, EVs represent 45% of their sales. However, in many areas across the country, EVs make up less than 1% of sales. Further, many dealers are choosing not to sell EVs because of the high cost of certification and low demand that couldn’t be justified overall.

Opening Up a Holistic Sustainable Strategy

Instead of focusing on only EVs, we would be wise to expand our focus to innovation in sustainability. Every OEM, despite their current EV strategy, is thinking about ways to embrace sustainability in the automotive and mobility industry. As natural resources become more and more scarce, sustainable value chains are becoming increasingly important for the automotive industry.

The most successful OEMs are innovating to balance legislative requirements and consumer demands both present and future. They are working to provide consumer-tailored and valuable products in highly competitive markets. They are all about innovation, not only of technology but also of process and approach.

When I was in Europe late last year, OEM leaders I met with felt that sustainability and innovation were the focus of their organizations.  They saw EVs as a critical piece of the automotive mobility industry, but they spoke of greater sustainability. This larger sustainability approach impacts the entire ecosystem, including OEMs, suppliers, dealers, and consumers. The future of automotive must be much more holistic than just EVs – it is to be sustainable, no matter the solution it requires.

Are Hybrids the Way for Now?

Here in the United States, we are seeing this shift in a controversial way. OEMs are defining sustainability not as a full-fledged jump into EV-only sales, but as a check-in with technology that has already been around for much longer and has enjoyed more consumer acceptance: hybrids. This approach does not mean that EVs are out of the question, but that we are willing to take a step in the right direction with hybrid technology while we take more time to effectively transition our society towards EVs.

Today, hybrid vehicles already represent about 7.5% of penetration without the pressure of government mandates. My early prediction is that we will see that rise in 2024.

Sustainability is ultimately what will drive the next phase of transportation on the roadways. OEMs, dealers, suppliers, and consumers will all become more efficient and effective. We will do things differently; we will need different systems and approaches which will lead us to different experiences. The one thing that we can count on is change being constant.

Tap into Perficient’s automotive expertise to gain a sustainable competitive advantage.

Want to Hear from Other Automotive Leaders About EV Adoption?

The struggle of electrification and EV adoption has left many automotive leaders feeling defeated and looking for new ways to ignite automotive innovation. Perficient recently conducted a study surveying over 1,000 consumers about their feelings regarding electric vehicles and car-buying experiences. Now that we’ve had time to look at the insights, we’re interested in hearing from automotive leaders about their side of the experience.

Join us for a virtual coffee on us at our Electric Vehicles and Coffee Virtual Event to discuss the challenges and solutions to electrification.

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Keith Tomatore

A long-time senior executive in the auto industry who has held the position of SVP, Retail Marketing at Global Team Blue (GTB, a WPP Company) on the Ford Retail Business. In this role, Keith worked with the Ford Dealer Associations across the country to help them with their Precision Marketing and digital efforts. Also, he served as CEO of iFrog Marketing Solutions, which focused on Automotive advertising solutions for Tier 2 and Tier 3.

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