March 3, 2024

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U.S. EV sales fell short of predictions in 2023. Elon Musk and range anxiety could be to blame, according to a new poll

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A year ago, auto industry analysts predicted that U.S. sales of new electric vehicles (EVs) would rise to as many as 1.6 million in 2023. That didn’t happen. While EV sales easily set another record, they likely totaled no more than 1.3 million for the full year.

Manufacturers, watching inventories of unsold vehicles ominously grow, are second-guessing themselves. Market leader Tesla repeatedly slashed prices to boost sales. General Motors and Ford are delaying EV investments and production. And the chairman of Toyota, which has opted for plug-in hybrids over all-electrics, is grinning with schadenfreude.

Why EV sales are falling short

Based on our research, most Americans are anxious about the vehicles’ range. They also worry about sticker prices, insufficient financial incentives to buy electric, and too few choices. Significantly, these issues have only become more salient since early 2022, when we last polled on the topic, despite the accelerated buildout of a national charging network, an influx of new EV makes and models, federal and state tax credits, and deep price cuts.

All of this presumably should have only accelerated sales–and yet many consumers seem more hesitant.

Of course, the public is not monolithic. Those in their prime earning years, from their mid-30s to their mid-50s, are the most interested in EVs, with 60% of this group saying they’re at least somewhat likely to choose one as their next vehicle. However, they’re also by far the most likely to expect more from an EV purchase than they’re being offered today.

As the public face of the EV industry, Elon Musk is likely harming the cause. Asked whether they have a lower opinion of electric vehicles because of the actions of people associated with them, almost half of all Americans (45%) said yes.

Though EVs have lost some of their juice in the U.S., demand is still growing at an enviable pace. New electric vehicle sales topped 1 million for the first time,

Will Johnson

2024-01-08 08:12:36

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