Friday, March 14th, 2014 - Roy Morgan Research

Due to hit Australian roads within the coming few months, can the acclaimed Model S fully electric sedan from US manufacturer Tesla reverse the decline in local consideration for rechargeable battery-powered vehicles? And who, exactly, is most likely to shift gears from consideration to intention to purchase with a six-figure outlay on a plug-in car? 

In 2009, nearly 1 in 3 Australians Drivers (31%) agreed that they would ‘seriously consider buying a fully electric (plug-in) vehicle’. But over the next three years, as a string of models including the Holden Volt, Nissan Leaf and Mistubishi i-MiEV hit (but failed to ignite) the Australian market, consideration fell 7% points to 24% in 2012 and 2013. However an uptick last year among some sections of the market could be the sprout of renewed interest in electric cars in the lead up to the arrival of the Model S. 

Consideration of electric vehicles has bounced among two (partially overlapping) groups, comprising those who may be the most likely to turn consideration into purchase: people with household incomes over $120Kpa; and people who don’t believe environmentally-friendly products are overpriced. 

% of each base who agree they would seriously consider an electric car:

Source: Roy Morgan Single Source, January 2009 – December 2013, total average annual n=19,298 Australians 14+; n = 16,692 Drivers; n = 4712 who disagree that environmentally friendly products are overpriced; n = 2905 people with household income over $120Kpa; n = 2584 with solar electric panels at home.

Although consideration levels within both these groups remain below 2009 levels, each noticeably bounced in 2013: 2% points among Australians who don’t believe that eco-friendly products are overpriced, and 3% among those with household incomes over $120Kpa.

In 2013, consideration among Australians with solar electric panels installed remained at 2012 levels (28%), still well above the Driver average. Electric vehicles like the Telsa Model S are capable of doubling as a power storage device so the question is, can we expect to see consideration of electric cars among solar panel owners rise in the near future?.   

Geoffrey Smith, General Manager - Consumer Products, Roy Morgan Research, says:

“Many factors are contributing to a decline in Australians even considering an electric car, not the least being rising electricity prices. Low sales volumes demonstrate that ‘serious consideration’ by consumers has not yet found an outlet for purchase.

“However with the high capacity batteries in the imminent Tesla models capable of also storing enough energy to power an average house for three to four days (from solar panels or off-peak grid consumption) it won’t take long for manufacturers and consumers to start joining the dots. The next breed of electric cars may be a game-changer not only for the automotive industry, but for utilities companies.

“In Europe, decades-old power companies are reporting losses for the first time as consumers circumvent the supply of power. In the US and Japan, utilities companies are already developing plans to collaborate with manufacturers of batteries and electric cars. Tesla’s owner Elon Musk is also chairman of a Solar Power company and has announced plans to develop a US$5 billion battery factory after developing batteries to store power for homes, commercial sites and utilities.

“The full impact of the Tesla Model S (and Model X in 2015)—as well as fully electric models from the likes of BMW and Renault—will not be immediate. But the time to examine synergies between the customers of auto and utility companies is now if either hopes to maximise the potential of these new areas of growth.”

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Roy Morgan Research is Australia’s best known and longest established market research and public opinion survey company. Roy Morgan Single Source is thorough, accurate, and provides comprehensive, directly applicable information about current and future customers. It is unique in that it directs all the questions to each individual from a base survey sample of around 55,000 interviews in Australia and 15,000 interviews in New Zealand annually - the largest Single Source databases in the world. The questions asked relate to lifestyle and attitudes, media consumption habits (including TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, cinema, catalogues, pay TV and the Internet), brand and product usage, purchase intentions, retail visitations, service provider preferences, financial information and recreation and leisure activities. This lead product is supported by a nationally networked, consultancy-orientated market research capability.
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