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Sunak’s date stall delays long term EV adoption but in-market electric buyers haven’t lost their spark

New research conducted by Auto Trader has revealed that consumer demand for electric vehicles (EVs) on its marketplace has remained unaffected by the government’s delay to the ban on new petrol and diesel cars. However, highlighting the uncertainty caused by the announcement, many retailers and consumers are now planning to delay their switch to electric in response, despite the strict Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) mandate remaining in place. In fact, more than a third (37%) of consumers said they’re unlikely to ever buy an EV, up from 21% just two years ago, whilst one in five (20%) independent retailers stated the extension has made them less likely to stock EVs.

Although consumer and retailer responses show a change in long-term behaviours around electric vehicles, on-site data from Auto Trader shows that in-market electric car buyers have not been put off. Contrary to some expectations, interest in electric cars remained steady throughout September with the electric share of advert views hovering around 4.3% of the overall market. In the second-hand market, demand for used EVs remains exceptionally strong, increasing circa 87% year-on-year in September.

Retailers are mostly in favour of pushing back the deadline with three quarters (75%) agreeing with the delay. However, when split between independent and franchise businesses, slight differences emerge, including almost a fifth (18%) of franchised retailers disagreeing with the policy change, potentially reflecting their readiness to make the switch. Independent retailers were more likely to agree with the change to the ban with 85% of respondents agreeing with the delay.

Rishi Sunak’s delay announcement was followed by confirmation that the ZEV mandate for cars would not change. However, Auto Trader’s research shows that a significant 60% of retailers weren’t aware it remained in place, which increases to over three quarters (77%) of independent businesses and drops to 46% of franchised. Concerningly, given the influence it will have over stock dynamics in the coming years, over a third (39%) of retailers weren’t sure what the ZEV mandate is. This breaks down to almost half (46%) of independent retailers and a quarter (25%) of franchised retailers.

Despite the ZEV mandate remaining in place, both franchised and independent retailers said the delay to the ban would impact their stocking decisions. As a response to the announcement almost a quarter (22%) of franchise retailers said they would stock fewer electric cars. Almost half (48%) of independent retailers who answered the survey said they don’t currently hold electric stock and that this announcement made them less likely to. Encouragingly, 28% of franchised retailers said they wouldn’t change their approach.

U-turn yet to impact EV interest, but many consider putting switch on hold.
Separate research conducted by Auto Traderalso shows how the delay has impacted consumer behaviour, with 37% of nearly 4,000 car buyers saying they’re unlikely to ever buy an electric vehicle, up from 21% when the 2030 ban was originally announced in 2021. Similarly, those saying they will buy an electric vehicle by 2035 is now at 39%, down from the 49% of respondents who, in 2021, said they would go electric by 2030. Only 13% of retailers predicted the news would have no impact on consumer demand.

Despite its influence on behaviour, consumer understanding about the ban is low, with almost three quarters (70%) not realising the policy relates to new cars only. Survey results show that the 65-74 age bracket is the most informed with over half (57%) knowing the ban applied to just brand-new cars, compared to less than a quarter (23%) of 17–24-year-olds.

Ian Plummer, Commercial Director of Auto Trader, the UK’s largest digital automotive marketplace,  commented on the findings“In-market electric car buyers haven’t been perturbed by headline policy changes and that’s not surprising considering offers are available on three quarters of new electric vehicles and that average prices of pre-loved electric cars are down almost a quarter on last year.  We know that price is the biggest barrier for most car buyers and our data shows that when the price is right, many people are more than happy to get behind the wheel of an electric car.

“With the ZEV mandate still firmly in place, the UK’s timetable to electrification remains unchanged, but the delay only serves to add confusion and uncertainty to what is already an industry-wide challenge. More electric vehicles will be entering both the new and used retail market in the coming years, which will significantly shape the forecourts of both franchised and independent retailers. Some retailers may feel this is distant concern but with fuel prices on the rise and infrastructure set to improve, it does feel like only a matter of time before the doubters begin to reconsider. Regardless of what the politicians say, preparing to electrify your business isn’t something you can put off – start now.”

1 Total survey responses = 1,149, survey completed September 2023
2 Total survey responses = 3,731, survey completed September 2023

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