Consumer perceptions and behaviour in the automotive sector.

Metricomm gathered and analysed online media coverage for all EV car brands in the UK, between 2016 and 2023. At a time when the automotive industry is struggling to persuade private consumers to purchase electric vehicles, the objective was to quantify the impact of media content on consumer perceptions and behaviour. Media coverage is a powerful contributor to consumer consideration and in this report, we look at the relationship between the share of online media audience and the share of search for individual EV brands.

At the top level, the report highlights the fact that the Tesla brand is no longer the force it once was. Metricomm was able to quantify the decline in Tesla’s ability to influence potential buyers by calculating that its share of online media audience has declined from 17% in 2019/20 to 10% in 2022/23. At the same time, its share of UK search has reduced from 12.4% to 9.8%. Other brands in a similar position are BMW and Volkswagen– they may still be ahead of the field but competitors, including Chinese manufacturers, are closing in. Not all brands are doing this badly. Those with the largest net increase in share of search as a proportion of share of audience included Skoda, Cupra, Citroen and Polestar. Others, including Hyundai and Kia, increased their share of media audience, raising brand awareness in a highly competitive market.

Our analysis across hundreds of brands has revealed that the relevance of coverage (what it is about) also impacts consumer behaviour. One noticeable trend here is the growth in high relevance content about the price of EVs. In fact, compared to 2016 when content focused on battery life, cold weather and other performance related topics, in 2023 the emphasis is on financial and economic issues associated with EV ownership. The media is reflecting and reinforcing consumer concerns about value for money and cost of ownership. Another topic which peaked in coverage in Q2 2023 was the problematic nature of EV charging in the UK. A deeper dive into the sub-topics linked to charging allowed Metricomm to discover that availability of charging points, once the major complaint of early adopters, is no longer the main inhibitor. Now, the media is reflecting and contributing to motorists’ concerns about the cost of charging, difficulties with payment and issues with charging at home.

Finally, we looked at how different fuel types are covered in the media, calculating the trend over time for content about electric and hybrid vehicles compared to other fuel types, including hydrogen and ICE. Electric and hybrid have received most media attention since 2016. Petrol as a topic remains high on the media agenda and interestingly the topic of ICE has recently overtaken hydrogen in terms of total interest over time.

Under intense political pressure, UK manufacturers need to figure out how to target and convince the minority of buyers currently prepared to purchase EVs. Metricomm’s insights feed into communication strategy and planning, helping brands position carefully to address consumer concerns and providing early warning when media outcomes are less than optimal compared to competitors.

A free pdf copy of the report is available here: Automotive sector report

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