[News] EV Market Faces Challenges, Including Price, Affordability, and Realistic Consumer Expectations

2023-10-31 Emerging Technologies editor

Once considered a driving force behind economic growth, the electric vehicle (EV) market is facing a reality check as consumers are becoming more practical about their needs due to rising inflation and high-interest rates. Automakers acknowledge that in times of inflation, electric vehicles won’t be on consumers’ radar in the coming years unless their prices are lowered.

In the third quarter, the U.S. saw a surge in EV sales, breaking the 313,000 mark, almost a 50% increase from the same period the previous year. The EV market share reached an all-time high of 7.9%.

However, this growth may be reaching its peak as major automakers are now either postponing their electric vehicle sales targets and production plans or resorting to price reductions.

For instance, Ford has extended the annual production target for electric vehicles to 600,000 units by one year, abandoned the goal of producing 2 million electric vehicles by 2026, and temporarily halted a $12 billion investment in EV projects.

General Motors has also abandoned its sales targets, and Honda has given up on its plans to jointly develop electric vehicles priced below $30,000 with General Motors. Tesla has postponed its super factory project in Mexico.

More manufacturers are resorting to price reductions, including Mercedes-Benz, Tesla, and Ford’s electric trucks, all of which are offering significant discounts.

Price vs. Affordability

Consumers are primarily concerned with the price difference between EVs and gasoline vehicles. In the U.S., most compact electric SUVs are priced at around $52,000, while similar gasoline SUVs cost only about $34,000.

According to Ford’s CEO, in the EV industry, exceptional products alone are no longer sufficient; they must also be cost-competitive. Elon Musk also noted that the high-interest-rate environment is unfavorable for market demand, and making products more affordable is essential to encourage people to make purchases.

However, even with price reductions and discounts, it seems that buyers remain unimpressed. U.S. dealers have observed that the next wave of buyers, unlike those who made impulsive purchases in the past couple of years, are now more focused on practical factors such as cost, infrastructure challenges, and lifestyle impediments.

Dealers are increasingly realizing that electric vehicles are a tougher sell when compared to traditional gasoline-powered cars.

Practical Considerations

Market analysts suggest that over the past decade of low-interest rates, consumers have increased their spending. However, as interest rates rise, consumers now find the need to be more frugal.

The price of EVs has gone beyond the affordability range of many consumers. The current high-interest-rate environment is also unfavorable for convincing consumers to explore immature automotive technologies.

A survey found that aside from price, consumers still worry about range anxiety and the lack of charging infrastructure. Up to 77% of respondents said these were the most pressing issues when considering EVs. Consumers are less likely to consider immature products when their budgets are tight.

The U.S. government aims to have half of all new vehicles sold be zero-emission vehicles by 2030. Just a few years ago, policymakers believed that Americans would adopt EVs without needing much persuasion. However, this optimism now appears to be overly idealistic.

For now, General Motors, Ford, and even Tesla are deciding to hold onto their cash reserves and redeploy them when the economic situation stabilizes. Toyota Chairman Akio Toyoda, who has consistently argued that pure EVs are not the only solution, should be feeling vindicated as he stated at the recent Tokyo Motor Show, saying that “People are finally seeing reality.

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(Photo credit: Pixabay)