Posted on August 31, 2018 by Matt Pressman
Okay... guilty. I just used the clickbait term "Tesla Killers" — the media's catchphrase to hype EVs destined to destroy Team Elon. But are Big Auto's electric cars really a threat to Tesla? As the press gets swept up in electric concept cars, press releases, and buzzy announcements from legacy automakers, efforts surrounding their existing EVs are kept quiet. More on that in a minute.
Above: BMW hypes their 'electrified' line-up at car shows but shy away from big ad campaigns to promote them (Image: Motor Sport)
First, some background. Electric cars from legacy automakers tend to be compliance cars with strategically low production output. Nonetheless, they still deserve kudos for producing pure electrics. Critics call Big Auto's EVs nothing more than window dressing and green washing. But that's unfair. These EVs still represent an important step in the transition to cleaner transport.
That said, there's a troubling new trend — confusing, tricky terminology. News flash: Big Auto's so-called electrified cars often still use... surprise... gasoline. Are they really committed to a future without fossil fuels? The data shows otherwise. Big Auto's corporate execs are spending big bucks on gasoline-powered cars (and trucks) with rich investments in their respective ad budgets. Meanwhile, what's their ad spending on EVs? Those ad budgets pale in comparison.
Above: Understanding the differences between electric and electrified vehicles (Source: CNN Money)
Gina Coplon-Newfield (via Sierra Club) writes, "automakers are doing the bare minimum to advertise and sell electric vehicles — often, even less than the minimum. A recent study commissioned by the Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management (NESCAUM) shows that six major automakers in the U.S. (General Motors, Ford, Toyota, Nissan, Volkswagen, and FiatChrysler) are spending almost nothing to advertise their electric vehicles."
Furthermore, "The report, which looks at 2017 automotive ad spending, shows that in California and Northeast markets as well as in nationwide ads, FiatChrysler didn’t advertise the electric Fiat 500e at all, and Volkswagen didn’t advertise the eGolf at all either. When examining data from California and the Northeast, Nissan, Toyota, and Ford also spent NOTHING on ads for the plug-in Leaf, Prius Prime, Fusion, and C-Max Energi, respectively." Check out the charts below for more.
Comparing Big Auto's Gas vs. Electric Ad Spend
Source: Data above was shared with Sierra Club by NESCAUM, via CompetiTrack, a company that tracks auto advertising activity
To be fair, Tesla doesn't spend on traditional advertising either. However, they don't need to — the Silicon Valley company is dominating market share for both its premium offerings and its lower-priced Model 3. And, Model 3 reservations are in the hundreds of thousands. That said, if "Tesla Killers" are really coming, you'd expect legacy automakers would want to advertise to take back market share. But if Big Auto's current crop of EVs serve as any indication, that won't happen.
Source: Sierra Club