How Technology Fluent Consumers Drive Demand for EVs and Advanced Automotive Features
After focusing on the inflection point in purchase intent for hybrids and EVs among North American consumers, and EV adoption hurdles keeping the majority of young car buyers locked into gasoline-powered cars (for now), we turn our attention to the role that consumers’ relationship with technology plays on influencing their vehicle purchasing decisions. This topic has significant implications for automakers and their technology partners, as we are about to explain.
1. The more technological-savvy consumers are, the more likely they are to plan to make their next vehicle an EV
One of the fascinating aspects of our study is that it helps us better understand the relationship between consumers’ overall technology savvy and their preferences when it comes to their next vehicle purchase. Specifically, our data suggests that technology fluency is an indicator of preference when it comes to buying gasoline-powered vehicles, hybrids, or EVs.
For instance, we asked likely car buyers in North America if they consider themselves to be very technologically savvy, somewhat technologically savvy, or not technologically savvy, then looked at which category of vehicle they intended to purchase next: gasoline powered, hybrid, or EV. What we found is that 72.7% of consumers who self-identify as “not tech savvy” planned to make their next vehicle purchase a gasoline-powered car, but only 40.8% of consumers identifying as “very technologically savvy” planned to stick to gasoline. Consumers who consider themselves to be only “somewhat technologically savvy” seemed more on the fence about gasoline-powered cars, with 53.3% planning to give gasoline one more go.
Confirming that less technologically-savvy consumers feel more comfortable sticking with tried-and-true engine technology for their next car is all fine and good, but the part of our data that I found most interesting is that only 5% of not technologically-savvy consumers plan to make their next car an EV, 32.5% of “very technologically-savvy consumers plan to do so. In other words, tech-savvy consumers are 6x more likely to purchase an EV than consumers who wrestle with new technology.
For reference, 13% of consumers who consider themselves somewhat technologically savvy plan to make their next car an EV, or 2.5x more likely than non-technologically-savvy consumers, but nearly 3x less likely than very technologically-savvy consumers.
What this suggests:
- The more technologically-savvy consumers are (or become), the more likely they are to transition away from gasoline engines to hybrids and EVs.
- Technological savvy can help predict preference and demand for certain types of vehicle. For example, the least tech-savvy consumers prefer gasoline-powered cars, moderately tech-savvy consumers prefer hybrids, and the most tech-savvy show the most purchase intent for EVs.
- Highly tech-savvy consumers are 6x more likely than tech-challenged consumers to be considering an EV for their next vehicles.
- Even the difference between being somewhat tech-savvy and being very tech-savvy can result in a nearly 3x difference in purchase intent favoring EVs.
The lesson here is that automakers and their technology partners should focus on designing for and marketing to highly technology-fluent consumers when it comes to EVs.
2. The more consumers think of themselves as early adopters, the more likely they are to plan to make their next vehicle an EV
We also asked the same consumers if they consider themselves early adopters, middle-of-the-crowd adopters, or late adopters of technology. Unlike our question about tech-savvy, which speaks more to interest in and fluency with technology, the adoption question aims to gauge purchasing behaviors relating to new and emerging technologies.
What we found is that when it comes to purchasing intent for new vehicles, tech-savvy and tech adoption produced nearly identical responses, with early adopters purchase intent for EVs almost perfectly matching that of the most tech-savvy, and late adopters almost perfectly matching the EV purchase intent of the least technologically-savvy:
- 33.4% of early adopters intend to make their next car an EV versus only 5.4% of late adopters and 17.4% of middle-of-the-crowd adopters.
- Compare with 32.5% of “very technologically-savvy consumers, 5% of not-savvy consumers, and 13% of somewhat tech-savvy consumers.
- If we were to draw a Venn diagram showing the overlap of high tech-savviness and early technology adoption, it would look like a near-perfect circle. The same is true of low tech-savviness and late adoption.
This second dataset confirms the link between consumers’ fluency and interest in new technologies and their purchase intent relating to EVs: Early adopters, like tech-savvy consumers, are 6x more likely than late adopters (like not-tech-savvy consumers) to be considering an EV as their next vehicle.
This also suggests that consumers broadly think of engine technology much in the same way as they do other features in a vehicle, like touch-screens, wireless connectivity, rear cameras, and ADAS, with a similar fluency and adoption trajectory.
While it may be tempting to think of demand for high-tech vehicle features being engine-technology agnostic (similar consumer demand for touchscreens, wireless connectivity, rear cameras, and ADAS regardless of what kind of engine the vehicle has), what this data shows us is that this is not the case. Consumers treat engine technology just like the rest of a vehicle technology feature set.
3. The more likely a consumer is to plan to make their next vehicle an EV, the more likely they are to also prioritize advanced technology features
Coming full circle, we also find that the more likely a consumer is to purchase an EV, the more likely they are to find advanced features important to their purchase. For example, we asked likely North American buyers to rate the importance of rear cameras, console touchscreens, CarPlay and AndroidAudio, blind-spot detection, lane departure alerts and correction, adaptive braking, collision avoidance, and adaptive cruise control to their next vehicle purchase. What we found is that EV buyers consistently rate those features as significantly more important than gasoline-powered vehicle buyers, with hybrid buyers falling in the middle. This trend mirrored our data about tech-savvy consumers and early adopters preferring EVs to gasoline tech.
As an additional point of reference, when asked about in-car entertainment experiences, highly tech-savvy car buyers and early adopters were 3x more likely to consider them very important to their next vehicle purchase than not-tech-savvy car buyers and late adopters.
Thus, we observe that the more technologically savvy a consumer is, the more likely they are to purchase an EV, and the more likely they also are to expect advanced technology features built into their EV’s design.
This provides two additional insights for automakers and their technology partners:
- When it comes to EVs and attracting consumers most likely to purchase them, the more advanced features can be packed into the car, the better. The value proposition for EVs trends towards more tech, more features, and more “wow” capabilities for high tech consumers.
- Conversely, efforts by automakers to create budget EVs that are deliberately light on advanced technology features (presumably to cut down on cost and attract budget-conscious tech-savvy consumers currently priced out of the EV market) risk missing the mark completely. Despite the popular expression, when it comes to EVs, less is not more.
This isn’t to say that advanced features don’t also belong in hybrids and gasoline-powered vehicles. On the contrary: all of the above features were generally rated as important by the majority of car buyers regardless of vehicle type. Our data even suggests that some features, like rear cameras and blind-spot detection, may have reached a high enough degree of maturity that many car buyers consider them to be almost standard at this point. (We will circle back to this discussion in another post.) Opportunities for automakers and their technology partners to develop and implement advanced features in all vehicles, regardless of engine type, are boundless.
Moving forward, however, understanding how consumers’ relationship to technology and technology adoption as a whole informs their vehicle purchase intent will be especially useful for automakers. For their product groups it will help designers and engineers decide how and where to implement advanced vehicle features and for whom and why. For marketing and sales teams, such insights will help better optimize messaging, targeting, and other core demand generation efforts. As for their technology partners and vendors, gaining a better understanding of end-users’ preferences, expectations, and relationship with technology will help fine-tune R&D and accelerate product development toward the types of user-centric experiences that will make their solutions more valuable and attractive to automakers.