OPINION: They’re an interest, a pastime, a conversation starter, a source of pride, part of our culture, they’re the family car. The one our dads washed lovingly on Sundays to take mums out for an afternoon jaunt.
But things have changed, and a very disrupted motor industry is now trying to work out how to sell you a car propelled by electricity.
The very green among us have raced off and gone electric already and the trying-to-be-green are trying to get our heads around EVs.
The sceptical among us think we’ll run out of batteries in the middle of nowhere, while the hard-core petrol heads are saying “not me mate”.
Then last week the Government announced subsidies for EVs, but not yet, which made some of us say “about time” but also ask “should we wait?”
It’s not just concerns for the planet that are pushing us towards electric cars anymore. It’s the manufacturers themselves who need to win over a public still hesitant about buying something so different from what we’re used to.
The move to electric cars hasn’t come quickly, they are more expensive, we need to rely on charging stations but also, the sales and marketing of them has been dire.
The industry has spent very little on EV marketing and research of United States car yards showed dealers were woefully unprepared to sell them: didn’t know how about tax credits or how to plug them in, didn’t have any available to test drive and openly encouraged shoppers to buy non-electric vehicles.
Makes sense to me. If you’re working in the car industry, you’re probably a bit of a petrol head and like cars the old-fashioned way.
But now that’s all changed, the need to convince us to go EV is urgent for the industry itself because it is now mass-producing electric cars and needs to create a mass market.
Car makers are starting at square one because everything about these cars is different, including the motivation to buy.
The New York Times couldn’t have put it better when it said the old “come-ons” are now irrelevant. “Range is the new horsepower. Connectivity replaces cylinder count. And sustainability is the new status symbol.”
The main motivation to buy an electric car is sustainability but it doesn’t stop you still wanting all the bells and whistles, in a sustainable way, of course.
Hilariously Volvo went further with the sustainability message, releasing the Polestar 2 EV this year saying it “even comes with a leather-free vegan interior”.
But we’re still weighing up the price of this choice, which is still on the high end due to the cost of batteries.
The road to electric car sales hasn’t been easy.
Early adopter Tesla still faces financial woes, it has shut stores, laid off 7 per cent of its workforce and founder, and eccentric visionary Elon Musk recently admitted in an interview that he was exhausted.
In the distance there are more challenges for the car-maker marketers who also need to keep convincing us that we even need a car as the concept of owning a vehicle comes under attack from Uber, Lyft and other ride-share companies.
Word has it from one of my EV owner, baby boomer friends, that despite buying their car for environmental reasons, the real pleasure they get out of it is that they can easily drag off the fossil fuelled cars at the lights.
We’ve come a long way from dad taking mum out for a Sunday drive – maybe this generation is more likely to be dragging each other off at the lights.
Cas Carter is a marketing and communications specialist.