In conversations with Audi and Porsche at the LA Auto Show, a trend emerged: both companies seem quite pleased that so many of their EV sales interest is coming from their own existing, internal combustion customers.
For a long time, one worry among automakers has been that creating new EV programs would just be an expensive way to cannibalize your own gas car sales. Given that EVs weren’t so profitable (until recently, anyhow), this wouldn’t necessarily be a good thing for the business.
But another consideration is that if a company doesn’t cannibalize its own gas car sales, someone else will conquest them. That has been happening in the luxury market, with customers who want to buy electric having only one company to realistically meet their needs.
Now that other companies are getting into the EV game, this “conquesting” is still going on, only it’s happening internally now.
So much coverage of EVs focuses on whether or not new electric offerings from major manufacturers will take away sales from current EV manufacturers as if the electric slice of the pie is fixed and can’t possibly grow any bigger.
But manufacturers, more and more, are seeing otherwise.
Audi dealers converting gas buyers to electric
In a chat with Audi, we heard that roughly half of e-tron SUV buyers are coming from other brands, with half being Audi repeat customers.
But more interestingly, more than 90% of Audi’s e-tron SUV buyers are coming from gas cars. This does stand to reason since gas cars are still a vast majority of the market.
Audi told us that, in post-purchase surveys of e-tron SUV buyers, they’ve heard a lot of encouraging information regarding the dealer experience. We recently covered how poor the EV dealership experience can be, so Audi has put a lot of effort into training dealers properly.
Audi pointed out an individual story of a customer who came in determined to buy an ICE SUV, and the dealer ended up selling him an e-tron SUV instead. This is the opposite of what many prospective buyers have experienced at dealerships when they come looking for EVs.
Porsche sees performance – not sedan – customers leaning towards Taycan
We heard similar numbers from Porsche, who reiterated statistics shared during the Taycan launch. Porsche also is getting about a 50/50 interest split between Porsche customers and customers from other brands. When it comes to other brands, the largest group at launch was Tesla owners, but when it comes to Porsche’s own brand, the largest group is 911 owners.
This statistic stood out as very interesting to Porsche, because one would expect that the Taycan, a 4-door, would perhaps garner more interest from Panamera customers.
Porsche thinks that this is reflective of performance considerations, rather than practical ones. Their 911 customers are interested in the best performance car they can buy. And since Porsche put a lot of effort into making the Taycan drive like a 911, interest from performance customers has followed.
Over the last few years, electric vehicles have proven that they can and should be considered performance cars, and Porsche is now seeing the effects of that. Their highest-performance customers are clamoring for their new electric offering.
Despite all this, Porsche is still on record this week as saying that the 911 is likely the last vehicle in their line they will electrify.
VW Group aggressively decarbonizing
Both companies are part of the VW Group, who reiterated many times over the course of the show that they are serious about meeting their carbon reduction, electrification, and climate goals.
All companies in the VW Group plan to go carbon neutral by 2050, not only counting their manufacturing and current car offerings but counting their global installed fleets. Audi shared that by 2050, they also plan to offset emissions from their installed base (the last 10 years worth of cars).
This is great news for the EV industry, and hopefully bad news for internal combustion. We see more and more manufacturers being “pleasantly surprised” by sales of their EVs, to the point where we wonder why everyone’s still so surprised if it keeps happening?
We still hear, both from the manufacturers above and others, that “EVs will come when consumers demand them.” But if every manufacturer who comes out with a serious EV effort ends up being surprised by how much demand they get for it, then maybe all of them are underestimating demand?
This is why we just need EVs on the lots, in numbers, now. The demand is there, there just aren’t any cars for people to buy. Give them cars and they will buy them. This has been shown with every serious EV effort.
So we’re happy for Porsche and Audi to be on the bandwagon. As I stated earlier today in the take of “Survey finds consumers are split between Ford Mustang Mach E and Tesla Model Y,” we at Electrek are more interested in considering gas cars as the competition, not electric. We consider all-electric cars as being on the “same team.” We still compare EVs to each other because that’s our beat, but we’d rather sales be taken from gas cars.
And also, specifically to Porsche: if you’re getting a surprising amount of performance-oriented customers going for the Taycan, maybe you can reconsider your thought that “the 911 will be our last car to go electric”?
If you wait that long, those performance customers will go elsewhere – to a car that feels better to drive. Once a 911 driver test drives a Taycan, there’s going to be no going back (or at least we imagine so – we haven’t test-driven the Taycan ourselves yet, hint hint).
Several Porsche enthusiasts we’ve spoken to, who have driven just about every vehicle Porsche has made, have told us that the Taycan is the best vehicle Porsche has ever made, gas or electric.
And if your worry is about tradition and angering long-time fans, you already did that twice with the change from air-cooled to water-cooled, and from hydraulic to electronic power steering. Porsche is no stranger to moving ahead despite the concerns of the nostalgia set, so let’s get cracking.
You just can’t get the same feeling of control and acceleration from a slow-revving internal combustion engine as you can from an electric motor which responds to drive input in single-digit milliseconds. So how about some electrons in that 911 posthaste, eh Porsche?
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