The global electric vehicle market continues to grow in size each day as new developments are made, older technology becomes more affordable, and greater efforts are pushed to achieve greener, more sustainable goals. It’s reported that the pandemic has sparked a more environmentally conscious society. This has increased the demand for electric vehicles so much so that, by 2030, the market is estimated to reach a valuation of over $693bn.
However, one common underlying problem that affects not only the EV market, but car markets in general, is their lack of inclusivity and accessibility for many people across the world.
Whether you’re entering or designing for the EV market, you have to consider factors like location, disability, age, and financial stability. Consumers can only work with what they are given. It’s up to manufacturers and marketing teams to implement strategies that will make their products more popular with a diverse audience.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at some potential marketing strategies automotive industries can use now, and drive the path of EV production in a more inclusive direction.
Who are the current audience?
To understand where to improve, we first need to look at which demographic electric cars are the most popular with. It’s useful to have this information as a general overview, even though there will be a range of additional, contributing factors. Also, regulatory support and incentives play an important role in boosting EV adoption among different demographics.
A report published in June 2021 found that, in the US:
75% of people who buy battery electric vehicles (BEVs) were male
87% of people were white
over 53% were over the age of 55
57% were earning more than $100,000 a year
Moreover, a study conducted by insurance comparison company Go Compare found that, of the 105,000 members surveyed, 10.5% of EV car owners were retirees.
Given the current market price for most EVs, these figures aren’t really surprising.
China currently leads the way in terms of EV sales for both BEV and PHEVs (plug-in hybrid electric vehicles), making up nearly 60% of all global EV car registrations. This comes from a multitude of factors, including “government subsidies, tax breaks, procurement contracts, and other policy incentives,” according to MIT, as well as the sheer size of many Chinese cities and their levels of population density. In fact, to show their support and dedication to this growth, Nissan manufactured an EV especially for the Chinese market.
In 2022, the collective amount of EV car sales in Europe were half of those in China, making up nearly 30% of global registration. Of this percentage, Germany, the United Kingdom, and France were the main contributors to EV growth rate. But this also has a lot to do with the population size of each country. As a percentage of individual car markets, Norway’s market share exceeded all others, reaching 88% electric. The next closest contender was Sweden at 54%.
The demand for electric buses in Europe is also predicted to grow by 6.58% from 2022 to 2027, with the most going to the UK and the Netherlands.
So it’s clear that it is possible to make EVs accessible on a country-wide scale. The question is, how can we learn from what Norway and China have achieved? And how do we implement it across not only the rest of Europe and North America, but also into other markets such as in Asia Pacific countries?
Eight strategies for expanding the EV market to diverse audiences
Marketing products has never been an easy process, but it’s an essential one. If carmakers wish to see more electric vehicle sales, there are several things which need to happen with the manufacturing process.
1. Offer a wide range of vehicle types
One of the best ways to appeal to as many people as possible is to include a wide range of products. But these should still keep the same core values of your brand. That way, you can show through your ads that both your cars and your company are applicable to all types of people.
Cosmetically, you can include a range of colours or customisable elements which allow customers to feel more connected to the vehicle they buy. This is an area in which Kia excels, and they also make use of a virtual showroom.
Practically, you can be more appealing by including both large and small vehicle designs. For example, smaller cars (such as the Renault Zoe) are far more useful for built-up, urban areas where manoeuvrability is limited and you often find yourself parking on the street. Larger EV models like the Volvo C40 or XC40 Recharge are more powerful, capable of up to 342 miles on a full charge with the Twin Motor Model specifications. When manufacturers offer both variables, they open themselves up to a more diverse audience.
Economically, it’s good business practice (especially for startups) to design both hybrid and fully-electric vehicles. While they may be more expensive in terms of upkeep, many hybrid vehicles are cheaper to buy initially, which makes them more affordable for people in lower income brackets.
2. Incorporate a diverse group of people into the design process
A super effective technique manufacturers can use to be more inclusive is to listen to their target audience during the EV design process. This is especially important when designing vehicles for people with disabilities. It’s very difficult for an able-bodied person to accurately recreate the experiences of people who live with disabilities, so it’s vital to get a wide range of perspectives while planning.
EVs have already made great strides in increasing accessibility. For example, the one-pedal system with regenerative braking used in the Ford Mustang Mach-E (2022), or the Tesla Model S (2022) means you only have to use one foot to accelerate and brake. What’s more, the vast majority of EVs are automatic, which makes for a simpler driving experience, especially for people with limited mobility.
Additionally, replacing internal combustion engines with electric motors allows for greater space at the front of the vehicle which can be repurposed. Vehicles with wider, power-assisted doors, built-in ramps, and additional storage space for wheelchairs, oxygen tanks, or other medical equipment are all useful ways manufacturers can help grant more freedom to people who may not have previously had the option to drive.
While self-driving cars still have many faults, they also have the potential to do great things for the autonomy of people with disabilities. Having your own commercial vehicle gives more options to those who’d otherwise have to rely on public transport, friends and family, or taxi services.
3. Broaden your perspectives
The electric vehicle market in South East Asian countries has the potential to be enormous, but the sales of EVs often use a more westernised, Eurocentric approach.
The electrification of smaller vehicles has already begun in many circumstances, and the industry for electric two-wheelers in India is booming. From 2021 to 2022, the total sales figures for electric bikes in India were 3,27,900 units. But for the financial year of 2022 to 2023, these numbers exploded to 8,46,976 units – an increase of 258%.
And yet, comparatively, there are only 10 electric cars available in India, the most expensive of which is the BMW i7. India currently stands as the eight most polluted country in the world, so the increase in zero-emission vehicle sales could have a plethora of benefits on the quality of living and reduce the overall CO2 emissions generated.
EV uptake in the rest of Asia Pacific is led predominantly by Thailand, which makes up 58% of sales across the SEA countries, followed secondly by Indonesia (19.5%) and Vietnam (15.8%).
The same cannot be said for more far-east Asian countries, where the sale of EV passenger cars is incredibly popular already. For example:
Japan aims to transition to 100% electric car sales by 2035.
China continues to operate within its own sphere of EV influence (with companies such as SAIC Motors and BYD), and aims for EVs to account for 80% of all new vehicles sold by 2035 (roughly 28m units).
The government in South Korea offers subsidies and incentives for the uptake of EVs, which is expected to grow by 33.8% in the next 5 years.
4. Think about strategic infrastructure
While this goes beyond marketing, it’s still important to keep a strong channel of communication between automakers and those involved in developing charging infrastructure.
As more EVs become available, more charging points will be needed to accommodate them. But this becomes a problem when a third of houses in the UK don’t have the space to install charging points due to the lack of a driveway or garage. For people living in urban spaces, such as in terraced homes, this number rises to 60%.
Toyota Motor Corporation has taken this into consideration and states that it’s one of the main reasons why they are holding back on manufacturing EV vehicles at the same rate as competitors.
If that’s the case, then greater efforts need to be made to add EV charging stations to more public areas, such as:
car parks, including those in train stations and supermarkets
places of work
wide streets where chargers could feasibly be installed
If you could incorporate these factors into your marketing, then it would show your customers that you are ready for the increase in demand. This builds trust in your business, as you’re presenting yourselves as competent and forward-thinking.
5. Increase compatibility with after-market tools
Third-party add-ons have been available for a long time to help make driving easier for people with various disabilities. For example, electronic hand controls allow drivers to operate a car almost entirely from the steering wheel. If, for a number of reasons, you are unable to reach or operate the pedals, this provides a way for you to keep on driving.
By building in some of these features into your existing products, such as multi-directional adjustable seats, steering columns, and pedals, you grant more accessibility options to anyone who needs it. The new Lexus RZ 450e EV model also includes an optional steer-by-wire system, similar to that of a plane’s steering mechanism.
The controls are more sensitive, and only turn 150° in either direction, rather than the typical 720° found in normal steering wheels. This makes steering lighter and gentler, which would help people with limited mobility.
6. Offer subsidies and schemes
A way for EV manufacturers to increase their sales and improve their marketing strategies is to partner with governmental organisations. This way, you can collaborate on creating subsidies and initiatives which aim to advance public uptake of EVs.
New EVs can be incredibly expensive, and cater only to those who can afford them. This leaves out the vast majority of people, but it doesn’t stop the pressure on them to ‘go green’ and buy a more environmentally friendly vehicle. Let’s take a look at some alternatives:
In California, a Replace Your Ride scheme saw the sales of EVs and HEVs increase by 50% and 75% respectively.
The Motability Scheme aims to help motorists with disabilities switch from general motors to an electric one over the course of a three-year lease. The main premise is that everything except for the cost of fuel is included within a comprehensive package. Automakers who are currently part of this scheme include the likes of Audi, Hyundai, and Renault.
China helped boost its EV market substantially by not only offering incentives to consumers, but also to manufacturers along the supply chain to help increase domestic production.
In the UK, BEVs are exempt from vehicle excise duty (VED) until April 2025.
Countries across the European Union are offered a variety of subsidies and incentives to help promote further EV adoption, which is one of the reasons why Norway has been so successful.
7. Be mindful of inclusive language
Language greatly affects how we think, so it’s vital that marketing efforts reflect the values they wish to put forward through the language they use.
At the end of the day, cars are for everyone. People will have their own set of specific preferences and things they look for when choosing which new cars to drive. But you need to make sure that everything in your marketing appeals to as wide of a demographic as possible.
Many cars are associated with stereotypes. While some brands lean into these, as they are confident in attracting that one particular audience, it may be better to let the product speak for itself. By showcasing a range of people operating your vehicles in advertisements online, on TV, or even in any magazines you are featured in, you’ll highlight that your cars are made for everyone.
This should also be reflected in your team and C-suite officials. It seems insincere to be promoting diversity around your brand if you are not also embracing it behind the scenes. Listening to a range of perspectives and showcasing your broad approach when it comes to marketing is sure to bring in more like-minded people.
8. Be aware of who benefits least
While you definitely need to be aware of who your target audience is, you also need to know who you’re not appealing to. This way, you can plan on how to reach new people in the future.
Despite having one of the cleanest electricity grids in the world, with 80% of power coming from emission-free resources, Canada only saw EVs make up 7.7% of total car registrations in 2022. But this doesn’t come as much of a surprise when you consider that it’s the second largest country in the world, and 90% of the population lives within 150 miles of the US border. For anyone further north, electric vehicles are just not an option.
Until it becomes possible to make EVs that are able to travel further than 500 miles (through a range of conditions, no less) in a single battery charge, EVs will stay as the less appealing option to people in more remote areas.
Currently, the Mercedes EQS holds the record for the furthest distance an EV can travel in the UK, reaching 453 miles on a single charge. However, with a retail price between £105,610 to £119,610, this is wholly inaccessible to the vast majority of the population.
There’s a lot that can be done to help increase the uptake of electric vehicles all over the world. It’s important that, in order for the industry to succeed, vehicles are made with the average population in mind - people who can’t afford high-end products, and rely on second-hand vehicles to get around.
A good look at what marketing strategies you are currently using is the first step to getting a better idea of where to go next. Assess your own use of stereotypes. Take a look at who is making most of the design decisions. Collectively brainstorm areas you can improve upon.
At the end of the day, there are a lot of external factors within the production of EVs that can make them hard to sell. Until the price of EV battery packs drop, and we develop cheaper alternatives to lithium-ion fuel cells, it’s unlikely we’ll see too much of a change any time soon.
In the meantime, focus your efforts on what you can do right now, and pave the way for a brighter, more renewable future.