3. EVs: It’s the marketing, stupid!
How do carmakers stimulate U.S. consumers’ appetite for EVs? So far, there’s been no easy answer.
Hans Adlkofer, the head of the system group at the automotive division at Infineon, said, “In the U.S., hybrids are much more popular, although companies like Tesla offer good success stories.”
There is no doubt in his mind, however, that the final solution [for cars with lower CO2 emissions and higher fuel efficiency] will be EVs, not hybrids.
But here’s the rub.
Are there EVs out there with truly extended driving range? Do those EVs come with enough horsepower? Are they priced moderately? Do those EV models offer faster charging?
The answers to all these questions might not be in engineering but in marketing. This isn’t exactly the answer engineers are looking for, but BMW’s all electric vehicle i3 could be the model others follow.
Some even believe the i3, which went on sale in Europe late this year, could become the most popular electric car ever. That’s largely due to “a smart marketing package,” explained Adlkofer.
BMW is addressing consumers’ persistent range anxiety in two ways. Consumers are given a choice of purchasing the optional two-cylinder, 34-horsepower rear engine that runs on gasoline, which basically doubles the vehicle’s range.
BMW is also giving i3 owners access to gas-powered loaner cars during days when they need a vehicle with more range, for example, on weekend trips or extended holidays. “Ninety percent of automobile usage is a short-drive needed for daily commute,” said Adlkofer.
The fact is that battery prices for EVs still remain very high, and it will likely take years before the pure EV powertrain to go mainstream.
It’s time for carmakers to start thinking differently in marketing their EVs in 2014.