New study: “Lack of coherent sales concepts” is responsible for weak EV sales

Kia Soul EV Nissan LEAF

A new market analysis acknowledges that the market share of electric vehicles in the seven leading automotive nations remains stubbornly low, and looks at some of the reasons for the sluggish growth. “The major growth impetus that would anchor e-mobility in the seven leading automotive nations long term is still nowhere to be seen,” the report states.

The E-Mobility Index for the third quarter of 2015 is published by two German organizations: the Roland Berger Automotive Competence Center and the fka research institute. The report finds that, while insufficient battery range is a part of the reason that average market share is stagnating at below 1%, the more important reason is a failure of marketing by the OEMs.

The E-Mobility Index Figure2

“There’s very little, if any, promotion of electric cars going on,” said Roland Berger Partner Thomas Schlick. “It’s no wonder potential customers are not getting interested in them.”

“The lack of coherent sales concepts is partly responsible for the weak sales figures,” reads the report. “OEMs are not doing enough to win customers over to BEVs and PHEVs. Strategies are lacking for creating lasting incentives for dealers to sell low-emission vehicles.”

Automakers are facing a dilemma: they must produce a certain number of electrified vehicles in order to comply with ever-tightening emission limits, but they are unable to pass on the full costs of the technology to customers. “OEMs are mostly responding to this challenge with a modular system that gives them the medium-term capability to offer electric and hybrid cars in all vehicle classifications.”

The E-Mobility Index Figure3

While sales are down in the two biggest markets (the US and Japan), in all other markets they have grown substantially from the previous period. The slump in the Japanese market reflects “the lower strategic importance of BEVs and PHEVs in Japanese OEM portfolios.”

Of the seven leading automotive nations (Germany, France, Italy, the US, Japan, China, South Korea), France is the only one where plug-in vehicles have won more than 1% of the market, putting it well ahead of a stagnating US.

SEE ALSO: Are auto dealers the EV’s worst enemy?


Source: E-Mobility Index via Green Car Congress

  • Ed Stanko

    “There’s very little, if any, promotion of electric cars going on,” Well yeah, the dealers know that they aren’t going to make any money on the car after it leaves the dealership. They want to keep the maintenance hungry oil burners around so they can empty your wallet on a regular basis.

    • John Hohulin

      Fixed ops is what keeps dealerships in business. An EV sale also requires many more customer touches. Educating the customer – gas guys HATE that.

    • Wade

      If you talk to a dealer about electric cars, the salesman looks at you like you’re from outer space. And that’s dealers who sell brands that have electric car models, like Chevy and Nissan! I realize that these dealers are trying to sell the things that the people already want to buy, and that’s part of the problem. The other thing is that the media, the car reviewers, don’t seem to understand that when they are resistant to change for its own sake, they are trusted people who sway the opinions of a vast number of people.
      It’s mostly education. We are still in the innovation phase for the most part, with maybe a few pockets of areas almost to the early adopter phase. Diffusion of innovation.

      • Zephyr

        Yep. At NDEW one of my friends (who just turned in his leased first-run LEAF) told me he knows people who went to our local Nissan dealer to look at EVs and were actively dissuaded from doing so.
        Our Chevy dealer is apathetic at best – at least they don’t try to talk people out of it, that I know of. They were happy to sell me a slightly used Volt, and their new ones are in a moderately visible location.
        BMW appears serious. They show up with an i3 pretty much any time we ask, do Q&A, test rides, etc.

      • Collin Burnell

        As a Hybrid/EV shopper, sometimes it’s best to ask for the dealerships Hybrid/EV salesman. I’ve noticed that most dealers have at least one that embraces and enjoys selling them. He or She is the one to work with.

  • David Sharp

    Ed totally nails it.

  • EV Safe Charge

    Another reason we hear from consumers is the lack of a universal plug and charger all can use. We applaud Tesla for doing so much to bring the EV market forward but they are now hurting this developing market by creating confusion with their tesla-only chargers and plug, and for the environment, deploying Tesla-only chargers goes against the entire idea of doing good for the environment by making electric cars… We hope Elon Musk will change this approach and standardize the Tesla plug and allow all EVs to charge up at tesla charging stations, that would be a real coup for the environment, for EV sales overall and for Tesla.

    • Matt Falcon

      Tesla’s plug was developed because the standards bodies would not move quickly enough for Tesla’s development. They needed a plug that could transport both raw AC wall power (240V/120V) to the onboard charger, as well as optionally bypass the onboard charger for DC charging – using the SAME two terminals. Quick charging connectors today – other than Tesla – still use separate terminals for quick charging, making quick charging itself “optional” on cars and requiring a separate (in the case of CHAdeMO) or bulkier (as in SAE Combo), plug.

      Tesla put craploads of development into their plug, and it’s paid off remarkably, running circles around the power capabilities of other quick-charging systems. They also provide a FREE adapter for J1772 charging stations, so Teslas can use J1772 stations, with every car sold. Other EVs can’t use Superchargers, because Superchargers are provided *free* for Tesla users – and while it’s technically possible for an adapter to exist (Supercharger to CHAdeMO/SAE Combo), it’s not something Tesla is likely to allow to happen any time soon.

      However, the Tesla “high power wall connector” charger is just a J1772 station in disguise, so a simple mechanical adapter is all that’s needed. Those are also installed by Tesla at their cost, so they have no incentive to adapt it to other EVs.

      As for SAE Combo versus CHAdeMO, that’s arguably the thing worth complaining about – how many automakers choose to make quick charging optional, then are left with the decision of which standard to go with (if they use one at all). A car without a quick charging port is doomed to obsolescence sooner rather than later, as stations become more common. Most stations installed today provide both ports as well – rarely do I visit a quick charger that only provides CHAdeMO, and never have I seen on that’s SAE-only.

      All in all, that’s a non-issue. The big issue is right there in the article – that automakers suck at selling something they don’t really want to sell. I’d say, if you want to sell EVs, your sales team needs to drive home in an EV every night.

      • EV Safe Charge

        Thanks Matt for this excellent explanation and history of the Tesla plug and charger. Lack of a common plug and charger is however a bigger barrier to EV growth than is realized by many in our industry and we hear this straight from consumers. When a consumer buys an ICE they know they can fill up at any gas station, no matter the brand of gas station or vehicle. This is not the case with EV chargers and EVs today. When a consumer buys a non-Tesla EV they aren’t sure where they can recharge, many have seen Tesla fast chargers and some have tried to pull up and charge, only to find that the Tesla fast charger only works on Teslas, and this through their anecdotes to those who are yet to buy an EV does cause confusion in the marketplace and a general bad feeling about EVs, which is unfortunate as EVs are so amazing. And EVs don’t need any additional barriers to growth, no matter how small these barriers seem to be. Elon Musk has done so much for the EV world, he can fly to space, surely he can help figure out an industry standard for plugs and chargers all cars can use to recharge, and it would be very big of him as a first step to allow the current Tesla-only fast chargers to recharge other EVs as well. At least for SAE Combo and CHAdeMO charging, although part of the confusion as well with these two standards, EV chargers that offer these are generally offering the plugs for both, so that vehicle owners are ok. Currently the Tesla-only chargers are a marketing tool for Tesla, but if you think about the greater good, opening Tesla chargers to all EVs is the way to go, and we hope Tesla decides to do this.

  • Mark Maxwell

    Even Tesla is guilty .. their domestic model S out performs most if not all luxury imports and is the highest rated car in automotive history from consumer reports yet the company refuses to advertise.

    • Zephyr

      Guilty of what? They’re making them as fast as they can. Paying for ads would be a pointless waste of money. The cash is better spent on producing new models to increase market penetration.

  • jstack6

    No it’s simply because the top Plugins all came out with new version at the same time. Tesla offered the D , 90 and Ludicrous options as well as geared up for the X coming Sept 29th, Nissan came out with the 30 kW battery for 2016 and even Volt is switching but not ready to release their new model. Just watch the 4/Q 2015 and all of 2016 numbers.

  • Zephyr

    I wonder if the current diesel debacle will increase OEM activity on the EV side.

    • Collin Burnell

      I hope so. Clean Diesel is the same as Clean Coal… a dirty lie!