South African buyers warming to electric vehicles, survey shows

5th November 2021 By: Irma Venter - Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

The newest AutoTrader South African Electric Vehicle Buyers Survey indicates that local electric vehicle (EV) appetite has grown year-on-year, says AutoTrader CEO George Mienie.

AutoTrader is one of South Africa’s largest digital automotive marketplaces.

The survey was conducted to quantify and understand potential buyers’ willingness to buy an EV in South Africa.

The survey also focused on consumers’ perceptions around EVs, as well as their preferences when considering these vehicles.

The data was obtained by means of an online survey on AutoTrader’s website, generating more than 2 800 responses.

“South African shoppers are actively looking for opportunities to buy EVs, though the major challenge is still the initial purchase price,” says Mienie.

“According to AutoTrader’s data, there has been a 210% increase in searches for available EVs in South Africa in 2021.”

This is echoed by the number of respondents in the survey stating they were likely or very likely to consider buying an EV in the future, which increased to 70% in 2021, compared with 68% in 2020.

However, cost remains one of the chief barriers to the broader adoption of EVs in South Africa, with the survey indicating that these vehicles are still out of financial reach of about two-thirds of consumers.

Interestingly, almost half of the respondents indicated that they would consider buying a used EV over a new one, listing lower prices as the key motivating factor.

The lack of national charging infrastructure was again the most cited disadvantage of EV ownership, although the number of respondents who held this view fell from 61% in 2020, to 59% in 2021, just ahead of charging time (down from 60% in 2020 to 58% in 2021), and initial cost of purchase in third place (at 55%).

Range anxiety (at 26%) was down the list of the perceived negatives of running an EV, and well behind the potential impact of load-shedding (38%) and inconvenient charging options (34%).

Although 75% of respondents identified BMW as a brand with an EV option in its line-up locally, Tesla intriguingly remained top of mind in terms of perceived product availability, despite its vehicles not being commercially available in South Africa.

It’s a similar case when it comes to the choice of most trusted EV manufacturer, with 52% of respondents selecting BMW and 40% opting for Tesla.

“One of the major insights identified in the report is the fact that consumer perception, sentiment and expectations have not shifted markedly in the past year,” says Mienie.

“This indicates that the automotive industry needs to do more to educate the consumer, as many potential buyers are simply not aware of the EV products and infrastructure available in South Africa.

For instance, while BMW is highly rated, South Africans place their highest trust in Tesla as a brand – even though it’s not available in South Africa,” he notes.