Top SA car brands could be impacted by arrival of hybrids, EVs – AutoTrader’s Mienie

31st March 2023 By: Irma Venter - Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

AutoTrader’s newest Hybrid Car Buyers Survey and Electric Vehicle (EV) Car Buyers Survey show that brand ranks very low in importance among potential buyers of EVs and hybrids.

The digital marketplace’s CEO, George Mienie, says respondents indicated that safety, fuel efficiency and price were the most important factors when buying a hybrid, with the manufacturer ranked second to last.

When it comes to EVs, battery efficiency, safety and price ranked first to third, with brand again the second to last consideration.

This means that the top vehicle brands in the country could potentially “get disrupted” by the arrival of new-technology vehicles, says Mienie.

“Brand is one of the lowest factors. Consumers seem to think that hybrids or EVs are such solid, simple technology that it does not matter which brand you buy.”

Mienie adds that the hybrid survey shows that 81% of South Africans underestimate the range of a hybrid.

“The Toyota Corolla Cross hybrid can do more than 900 km on a full tank of fuel, and consumers totally underestimate that. So, there needs to be a massive education drive, even when it comes to hybrids.”

Standard hybrids, such as the Corolla Cross, are viewed as the more accessible of lower-emission new-energy vehicles (NEVs) coming on to the market, as they do not need to be plugged in to charge, as is the case with plug-in hybrids and EVs.

Mienie says another factor local vehicle manufacturers also need to consider is that consumers are not buying NEVs to “save the environment, primarily”, but “for their context, their circumstances”.

“The data is telling us that.”

According to Mienie, the factors that will sway South Africans from internal combustion engines to NEVs are a quick fill-up/charge; long range; and a price point of under R500 000, long before the environment comes into play.

He notes that the newest EV survey shows that 64% of consumers will purchase an EV within the next five years, down from 72% in 2021, and 74% in 2020.

One of the reasons for this drop could be the fact that hybrids are currently ticking all three of the boxes consumers are considering the most important, especially with the launch of the Toyota Corolla Cross hybrid priced at under R500 000.

Mienie also notes that, while 32% of respondents have experienced a hybrid, only 2% have experienced an EV.

The reporting period for the hybrid study covers AutoTrader data for the 2022 calendar year, with more than 14 hybrid brands and 40 models being considered, as well as a dedicated consumer survey, which was conducted in the last quarter of last year.

Statistics released by Naamsa | The Automotive Business Council earlier this year show that domestic sales of NEVs increased by 431.7% in 2022.

However, at 4 764 units, this represented only 0.88% of the country’s total new-vehicle market for the year.

According to Naamsa, 502 EVs were registered in South Africa in 2022, up from 218 units in 2021.

Only 122 plug-in hybrid EVs were sold in 2022.

Traditional hybrid vehicle sales reached 4 050 units for the year.