For some time now, many have been watching the automotive industry wondering when the tipping point would be. At what point would electric or hybrid vehicles transition from being a niche vehicle to something the “average car buyer” might consider. Some are saying, 2018 could be that year. That might be an overly optimistic viewpoint. Currently, electric cars only account for about 1.5 percent of all auto sales in the United States. But that could be changing very soon. The metrics that will push the needle include price, availability, and convenience.
First, price. For many consumers, the bigger price tag put even hybrid vehicles out of reach. Now, though, as the price for new gas-powered cars creeps up and companies like Tesla are beginning to sell more affordable vehicles, price is becoming less of an issue. Availability is another big concern. There just aren’t as many electric cars out there for people to buy. That, too, will change. With the Tesla Model 3 and the Nissan Leaf hitting dealerships across the nation, other automakers are scrambling to get their own fully electric competitors out to the market.
Chevrolet’s Bolt EV will be available nationwide for the full year in 2018. While the model was available in limited numbers in ’17, they landed in the market at a time when a lot of purchases had already been made. Nissan will also be re-introducing its redesigned Leaf into production in 2018. The Leaf can’t compete with other EVs head-to-head due to distance limitations, but it can certainly compete on price. If Nissan can get more out of a charge without adding too much to the price tag, they could enter the market as a spoiler to established electric brands.
Tesla still has the brand advantage, as the first and most popular fully-electric car. The brand carries a certain reputation, a mystique that the other traditional brands have yet to build. Ford, Chevy, Nissan, and others may come out with EVs, but they have to overcome the Tesla “cool factor.”
Then there’s the convenience factor. If there are not enough places to recharge vehicles, consumers are less likely to want the aggravation of adding their own home charging stations. But, as more stations are becoming available, that frustration will fall away as a detriment. One of the possible motivators for this change will be fully electric long-haul shipping. Recently, a handful of major retailers and shipping companies ordered fleets of Tesla’s vaunted electric semis. The need to charge those trucks on the road could create a wave of change.
Whatever does happen in the auto industry in 2018, one thing is certain… it will never be the same.
Ronn Torossian is the Founder and CEO of the New York based public relations firm 5WPR: one of the 20 largest PR Firms in the United States.