EV Shoppers Adapt to Inventory Challenges, Define Threshold for Order Delays

Latest Escalent EVForward data show the role consumers want dealerships to play in EV shopping, ownership

Electric vehicle (EV) shoppers are accepting and understanding of current inventory limitations due to the chip shortage, and are changing their shopping behaviors in response. Consumers are willing to order their vehicle and wait for delivery, and a new report reveals the threshold to which they are willing to adapt.

A majority (70%) of new-vehicle buyers are willing to wait less than a month before they purchase or lease a different vehicle, with 46% willing to wait a few weeks and 24% willing to wait only a few days. On the other hand, most agree seven weeks would be too long to wait for vehicle delivery and are unwilling to wait for that duration before pivoting to another vehicle purchase or lease.

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Those are the latest findings of the new Dealer DeepDive report from EVForward, the largest, most comprehensive study of the next generation of electric vehicle buyers. The dedicated platform was developed in 2019 by Escalent, a top human behavior and analytics advisory firm with extensive experience counseling the world’s largest automotive companies. The Dealer DeepDive explores the role consumers want dealerships to play throughout the shopping and ownership experience, where dealers can better meet consumer expectations and how dealers can better support their EV customers.

“The US is trending toward a European model, where vehicles are built to order at the factory, but the system needs to evolve to support timely delivery,” said Nikki Stern, Automotive & Mobility senior insights manager at Escalent. “To improve turnaround time for ordered vehicles, OEMs can consider a variety of approaches, like allowing for more factory flexibility, reducing vehicle configuration options, or introducing ‘software unlockable hardware’ that allows customers to customize their vehicle at and after the point of purchase.”

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While nearly one in four consumers would purchase an EV directly from the auto manufacturer, 94% of consumers reported contacting a dealership the last time they shopped for a vehicle, revealing the critical role dealerships play during the shopping process. Dealers are top of mind for consumers when seeking information on warranties, rebates and incentives, and over-the-air (OTA) updates. Consumers also see dealerships as providing essential services—with more than 50% of consumers thinking dealers should continue to:

  • Conduct repairs and services (69%)
  • Offer test drives (66%)
  • Handle vehicle purchases or leases—including pricing, negotiation and discounts (55%)
  • Hand over vehicle possession (52%)

During the past several years, many original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and EV specialist brands started shifting toward an online sales approach. However, fewer than half of survey respondents would be comfortable if the vehicle shopping, purchasing/leasing, and maintenance phases were shifted completely online or at the consumer’s home. For earlier phases in the vehicle purchase process—such as learning about model and powertrain options, as well as learning about trims, features and colors—online or in-person preferences are mixed. As consumers move down the purchase funnel closer to delivery and maintenance, the desire to handle things in person at the dealership is stronger.

“Consumers have an array of preferences that vary widely across age and EV intention groups,” said K.C. Boyce, vice president in Escalent’s Automotive & Mobility and Energy divisions. “The key to accommodating consumer preferences will be for dealers and manufacturers alike to offer an omnichannel approach, where consumers can seamlessly and effortlessly complete any phase of their buying in the channel they most prefer, whether in person or online.”

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