EVs gain momentum among U.S. consumers on car-buying consideration

The search for electrified and fuel-cell vehicles, including hybrids, plug-in hybrids and pure electric vehicles (EVs) is up — reaching 19 per cent among car shoppers considering purchasing a vehicle in the United States during the first quarter of the year, according to a new report from Kelley Blue Book. 

That report — The Kelley Blue Book Brand Watch report — is a consumer perception survey that weaves in consumer shopping behaviour to understand how a brand/model stacks up with its segment competitors on several factors that are key to a consumer’s buying decision.

“As automakers introduce more electrified vehicles in their vehicle line-up, we are seeing shopping consideration increase and ultimately sales follow,” said Vanessa Ton, Senior Industry Intelligence Manager for Kelley Blue Book. “At the same time, SUVs continue to dominate the new-vehicle marketplace.”

The report found a record percentage of shoppers are considering purchasing an SUV, while shopping for traditional cars is more steady, and pickup trucks are down among in-market new-car shoppers.

“Shoppers are enticed by their comfort, safety and practical utility, and automakers are responding to increased demand by producing more and more new SUV nameplates of various sizes to meet consumer needs and desires,” said Ton. “SUV-dominated brands like Subaru are riding the wave of SUV success, and this trend shows no signs of slowing down.”

Many shoppers considering an electrified vehicle are eyeing hybrid models from Japanese brands like Toyota and Honda, which comprised the majority of the top 10 most-shopped electrified vehicles list. The Toyota RAV4 hybrid was number one, while the Honda CR-V, Toyota Highlander, Toyota Prius, Honda Accord, Toyota Camry and Toyota Prius Prime also made the list.

“The only pure EVs on the most-shopped electrified list were luxury models from Tesla, including the Model 3, Model Y and Model S,” said KBB. “This record-setting shopping consideration for electrified vehicles also converted to sales, with Q1 2021 sales of electrified vehicles growing 81 per cent year-over-year and hitting 300,000 units for the first time.”

SUVs were the overall big winner for Q1 2021, with a record 67 per cent of all car shoppers considering an SUV. Here again Japanese brands dominated the SUV list, with the Honda CR-V as the most-shopped SUV, securing a 9 per cent gain in car-shopping consideration. Subaru’s Outback and Forester were both among the top five most-shopped SUVs and top 10 most-shopped vehicles overall.

And consumer consideration for traditional cars held steady, and were led by the Honda Accord. 

“Exactly a third of consumers considering a non-luxury vehicle considered a car in Q1 2021, up from 31% in Q4 2020 but well off the 37% seen one year ago in Q1 2020,” said KBB. “For comparison, shopping consideration for cars was just shy of 50 per cent in 2018, and it has been in decline ever since.”

Pickup trucks were down from a record high of 37% consideration in 2020, reaching 29% of all non-luxury shoppers considered a pickup truck in Q1 2021. That comes thanks in part to the ongoing global chip shortage crisis that resulted in production cuts that particularly affected pickups in the first quarter of the year. But despite a 16 per cent decline in shopping consideration, one vehicle reigned again as the most-shopped truck — the Ford F-150.

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