Driving future forward: global auto study shows consumers taking a detour towards traditional platforms

As the long-term trend towards electric vehicles (EVs) continues to solidify, consumer anxiety amid the pandemic around the world may be shifting automotive priorities towards familiarity and affordability.

According to Deloitte’s 2021 Global Automotive Consumer Study (which covers 23 countries, including Australia), 70% of Australian consumers are still looking for a traditional internal combustion engine for their next vehicle.

The report explores opinions regarding a variety of issues impacting the global automotive sector, including implications of the COVID-19 pandemic on consumer perceptions, the development of advanced technologies and impact of digital automotive retail platforms.

Key points from the survey of over 1000 Australian consumers include:

  • 70% expect to focus on petrol/diesel for their next vehicle, compared to 18% for hybrid electric, and 4% for battery electric
  • A cost/price premium (28%) and a lack of charging infrastructure (22%) are the greatest concerns regarding all-battery-powered electric vehicles
  • 79% still expect to purchase their next vehicle the ‘traditional’ way – in-person, compared to virtually
  • 61% would still prefer to interact with an authorised dealer
  • 60% are also open to virtual servicing, as long as it free.

Consumer interest in EVs

According to Deloitte Australia Co-Automotive Leader, Lee Peters: “There’s not a shadow of a doubt that, particularly with stricter carbon emission regulations on the nearer horizon, the motor vehicle torch is slowly being passed from internal combustion to electric.

“Awareness amongst Australian consumers of, and interest in, all-electric, or at the very least hybrid, is certainly there, and is growing. But, no differently to elsewhere around the world, Australians still require greater assurance around issues such as mileage, robust charging infrastructure rollouts and affordability of the electric segment.

“Unlike in some other markets, COVID doesn’t appear to have played a particular role in exacerbating apprehension around the purchase of EVs. Rather, in a country where we often need to travel long distances, we shouldn’t be surprised that issues such as range, price and charging opportunities are front of mind, and influencing purchasing choices to largely stay with the technology we all know.”

The future of digital auto services

Deloitte Australia Co-Automotive Leader, Dale McCauley, said: “Unlike many other retail sectors that have seen a wholesale shift to online buying, purchasing a vehicle remains a largely face-to-face experience for many consumers around the world, and certainly here in Australia.

“However, some people are increasingly looking for a virtual sale experience to maximise convenience, speed and ease of use, and sometimes to avoid the dealer experience all together.

“Australian dealers have shown they are open to change on the sales experience front in recent years, but with so many consumer transactions now available online, it’s a matter of time before this extends more and more into the auto space.

“Certain aspects of the buying process remain difficult to digitise, so the in-person experience will remain with us for some time. People still want to see, touch, and smell, and drive a vehicle before they buy it.

“Will there be virtual vehicle sales in the future? Absolutely, but we don’t need to write off the in-person experience just yet, as most consumers still want it going forward. And as demand for virtual transactions grows, this will likely result in a more complicated, and potentially costly, set of consumer expectations for dealers to meet.”

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