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Cracks in Tesla's EV appeal show up in latest study

While it's true most electric car shoppers end up selecting a Tesla, the battle to win them over is wide open, according to a new survey from JD Power.

Sean Szymkowski
It all started with Gran Turismo. From those early PlayStation days, Sean was drawn to anything with four wheels. Prior to joining the Roadshow team, he was a freelance contributor for Motor Authority, The Car Connection and Green Car Reports. As for what's in the garage, Sean owns a 2016 Chevrolet SS, and yes, it has Holden badges.
Sean Szymkowski
2 min read
2018 Tesla Model 3 Performance
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2018 Tesla Model 3 Performance

Tesla absolutely has a lead. Can the company keep it?

Nick Miotke/Roadshow

Good news for automakers ready to take a real stab at stealing a slice of the electric vehicle pie, which Tesla nearly has all to itself right now: A new study from JD Power, the inaugural Electric Vehicle Consideration Study released Thursday, shows that while most car buyers shopping for EVs do end up choosing a Tesla, they hardly go into the process completely sold on the brand.

Surveying over 9,000 new car shoppers who planned to buy or lease a new vehicle in the next 12 months, 27% of them said they not only put Tesla on their consideration list, but ended up pulling the trigger on an EV from Elon Musk and Co. These buyers cited "performance" as the driving decision to go with Tesla. 

Here's the part that shows a wide-open field heading into the immediate future when it comes to buyers and EVs: Just 4% of buyers said they were "only considering a Tesla." In other words, 96% of EV buyers could absolutely be swayed to another brand such as , , , , or any other company with an EV on sale, or launching soon. Talk about up for grabs.

Stewart Stropp, senior director of automotive retail at JD Power, noted the data point likely indicates Tesla's appeal is "not absolute and could be displaced by a worthy alternative." It's up to other automakers to educate and explain why their EV provides better value than a Tesla, however.

And education will be mighty important going forward as we've detailed in the past. In the study, 30% of car buyers said they wouldn't even consider an electric car simply because they lack information or any reason to consider one. Strong education campaigns and awareness-building may do wonders. Tesla doesn't advertise in mainstream channels, remember, or even operate a public relations department. It's very much a word-of-mouth advertising campaign that's gone gloriously for the company.

There's still work to do for all automakers when it comes to affordability, based on the data released this week. Those shopping premium brands (your typical luxury companies) were more than twice as likely to consider an EV at 36% compared to those shopping mainstream marques at 15%. The numbers underscore that an EV is likely out of many average car shoppers' price range, especially when a new car just as well-equipped costs less. Those shoppers may also lack a garage to make recharging practical or even feasible, depending on local charging infrastructure.

The affordability factor is one many automakers plan to address, from Chevy, Hyundai and even Tesla itself. Chevy recently revealed its latest 2022 Bolt EV with a massive price cut and Hyundai showed off its idea of the EV in the Ioniq 5. Tesla's Musk plans to take the brand even more mainstream in the near future with a "$25,000" EV, likely built in China and exported around the world. The EV race is just heating up, folks.

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