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Why EV brands need to focus on customer engagement

21st Oct 2021
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The London EV Show is coming soon. It is exciting to see the agenda being shaped in more detail now because the conference speakers are clearly a great mix of people from across the spectrum of areas where electric vehicles (EVs) are creating a wave of change. The manufacturers are represented along with the charging networks, government, and the environmental think tanks you might expect at an EV-focused event.

We are clearly reaching a tipping point in the adoption of EVs. They remain expensive, when compared to regular vehicles, but as all the major manufacturers start promoting their electric options the prices are coming down, just as the choice is also increasing. Fiat recently launched their electric 500 and everyone watching the Euro football championship during the summer will have seen VW promoting their electric range - the electric car delivering the ball to each game was especially memorable.

There are still a number of issues that EV users in the UK and Europe need to see addressed before widespread adoption can take place. Many people live in a home without a private garage, so they will need some form of street charging to be easily available. Drivers that need to regularly undertake longer journeys are wary because the charging network is far from comprehensive. Most car journeys are no more than a few miles, but range anxiety remains a real problem just because people do not see charging stations at every service station or petrol forecourt yet.

I heard Tanya Sinclair of ChargePoint on a recent podcast and even as a regular EV user herself she confessed that the interoperability of the various charging networks is not as good as it should be yet. This is an important point. When you buy petrol for your vehicle you can buy it anywhere - all you need is enough cash to make the purchase. With EV charging there is still a requirement to join multiple charging networks so you cover all bases and ensure that if you need to charge, you are a member of the right network.

The EU plans to ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars from 2035 and in the UK this target is 2030. This is not far away. At the end of this decade it will become impossible to buy a new petrol vehicle. As Tanya Sinclair explained, there is a strong push from government to work with charging companies to ensure that the network is expanded during this time, but I think that all the various companies in this area need to consider the interface between their brand and the customer in more detail.

Manufacturers need to redefine how maintenance and servicing takes place. Car insurers need to completely revise their policies. Charging networks need to start working together and finding ways to serve the customers of rivals, but at the same time differentiating their network through the quality of their service to the customer.

There may also be some unexpected changes in the customer relationship. Many brands are following the Tesla example and focusing more on direct retail sales, rather than relying on a dealer network. Porsche has been testing pop-up stores in malls for the past few years.

The auto industry is facing a wave of change that is coming from many different directions - including autonomous vehicles and ride sharing networks in addition to EVs. However, the increase in EV use is the area where change is easier to predict because most governments have announced their plans to phase out petrol and diesel engines. Increased ride sharing and networks such as Zipcar will also dramatically affect the industry, but that’s harder to predict when we do not know how long it will take for autonomous vehicles to be an everyday reality.

I am going to be taking a close look at all these issues at the London EV show, but in particular how all the companies at the show are thinking about engagement with their customers. In such a fast-moving business environment a fantastic customer experience is going to be the most important difference between success and failure.

Let me know what you think about the growth in use of EVs and how all the related companies need to think about customer engagement. Leave a comment here or get in touch via my LinkedIn.

 

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