Poor marketing stalls sales of eco cars

Automotive brands must improve the way they market electric cars because consumers are “fundamentally confused” over their cost and performance, which is slowing sales, despite the government’s efforts to incentivise drivers to go electric, according to a report.

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Only 1% of the public want to buy an electric car and have a realistic idea of the costs and performance of the vehicles, according to a report by GfK Automotive.

The study of 3,000 British motorists found that even consumers most interested in electric cars have unrealistic expectations of them, which is holding back growth and suggests there is some way for marketers to convince drivers to go electric.

Drivers tend to underestimate the cost and time it takes to charge the vehicles and overestimate how far they can drive them, the report says which means that sales don’t match the interest in electric cars in the UK.

Only 1,021 electric cars have been sold so far in 2011, according to data from Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), even though the government introduced a £5,000 subsidy in January to help cut the upfront costs of buying an electric or hybrid vehicle.

A number of manufacturers introduced electric hybrid cars this year, including the Nissan Leaf (pictured) and Peugeot iOn.

The report suggests that car manufacturers should consider introducing a lower entry price to encourage drivers to go electric, or promote hybrid solutions such as the Toyota Prius Plug-in and the upcoming Vauxhall Ampera, which have both electric motors and petrol engines as a first step towards greener cars.

Francisco Lopez, managing director of GfK Automotive says: “If they [car manufacturers and the government] are serious about transforming Britons into an electric motoring nation, one of the first things to do is to ensure consumers are clear of their genuine benefits. Only when consumers have a good understanding of the practicalities of owning an electric car can they realistically be expected to start purchasing them.”

Lopez adds: “There is a real struggle ahead for brands to make claims about electric cars credible to a largely sceptical public. Manufacturers need to both counteract negative sentiment from the naysayers and to encourage those who are positive about electric cars into purchasing vehicles and advocating their purchase.”

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