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Exclusive: Brand snobbery is taking a back seat for buyers of new electric cars

  • Customers’ long-established brand aspirations are changing, says Auto Trader
  • Buyers becoming more focused on a car’s range and technology rather than the badge on the nose
  • Traditional sector leaders for searches such as Volkswagen Golf are becoming a thing of the past

Time 9:41 am, March 30, 2022

Traditional brand snobbery plays a less important role for buyers choosing an electric car, Auto Trader has revealed.

Speaking exclusively to Car Dealer, the firm’s commercial director, Ian Plummer, explained how customers’ long-established brand aspirations are changing when it comes to electric cars, as they become more focused on a car’s range and technology rather than the badge on the nose.

‘In the ICE market, traditional brands, and the German premium brands in particular, dominate the share of new car advert views on Auto Trader’s new car marketplace – brands like BMW, Mercedes, Audi and Volkswagen, for example,’ he explained.

‘Kia, in the ICE market, has a share of around 4.4 per cent – far smaller than the German premium brands – but in the EV market, Kia leads the way with a 15 per cent share of new car advert views.

‘Hyundai, MG and Fiat all jump massively in the EV market, too, and that’s a reflection of a real shift in the market.’

In the video posted at the top of this story, Plummer described how the market is currently going through a ‘decade of confusion’, where buyers are having to get used to terms such as kilowatt hours rather than brake-horsepower, and learning where models like the Volkswagen ID.3 reside in the market instead of knowing by instinct where a Golf sits.

‘It’s all shifting so fast,’ he said, ‘and it’s also a reflection of how brands can radically change their perception in the market.’

Plummer revealed a selection of detailed graphics during the webinar, and two in particular illustrated the shift affecting the new car market.

In January 2022, 2.2 per cent of all new car advert views on Auto Trader’s website were for the Kia EV6. It was followed by the Ford Mustang Mach-E at 1.5 per cent.

For context, the share of new car advert views for the BMW M4 and BMW 1 Series were 1.4 and 1.1 per cent respectively.

Moreover, electric cars are appearing in ICE ‘competitor sets’, but the reverse isn’t true.

The Kia EV6 sits in 243 sets, the Mustang Mach-E is in 179, while the MG ZS EV appears in 122 competitor sets.

The BMW 3 Series, meanwhile, only appears in 99 sets, 48 for the Vauxhall Corsa and 42 sets for the Ford Puma.

Plummer explained: ‘What we mean by this is if I’m looking at a Mustang Mach-E, for instance, am I also looking at an EV6 (which would be in that category).

‘But equally, if I’m looking at a BMW 3 Series, I might also be looking at an EV6.

‘The point is, I might be looking at an Audi, a Mercedes or a Porsche, but I might now also be looking at a Kia EV6 or a Mach-E.

‘We are brand-agnostic. Buyers of German brands are known for preferring Germanic products, but [with electric cars] UK car buyers are much less snobbish.’

He added: ‘The Kia EV6 sits in 243 different competitor sets – that’s a huge amount. Compare this with the 3 Series (99 sets) and the Volkswagen Golf (18 sets), which used to be ubiquitous products that sat in 300 sets.

‘Everybody looked at a Golf as it’s a classless car that works for everybody.

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‘That’s no longer the case. It’s becoming the car of yesterday.’

In a fascinating interview, Plummer also discussed:

  • Just how expensive used EVs are compared with ICE cars
  • When the price parity between EVs and ICEs will occur
  • How choice in the budget EV sector is still extremely limited
  • How EV uptake is still being driven by affluence

Watch the video at the top of the story to watch the full interview

James Batchelor's avatar

James – or Batch as he’s known – started at Car Dealer in 2010, first as the work experience boy, eventually becoming editor in 2013. He worked for Auto Express as editor-at-large and was the face of Carbuyer’s YouTube reviews. In 2020, he went freelance and now writes for a number of national titles and contributes regularly to Car Dealer. In October 2021 he became Car Dealer's associate editor.

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