As automakers begin to roll out a fleet of new full-electric vehicles in the near term and are pouring money into developing the autonomous cars of the future, they may have a hard time finding enough buyers to turn a profit on either. That’s according to the just-released J.D. Power Mobility Confidence Index Study, conducted in conjunction with SurveyMonkey.
With scores based on a 100-point scale, the Confidence Index for battery-powered vehicles stands at 55, which is considered “neutral” according to the study’s parameters. The rating for self-driving cars is at just 36, which gets a “low” rating. That’s based on two separate polls of 5,000 consumers and industry experts and represents zero improvement over JDP’s last confidence study.
“It was a little surprising to find consumer sentiment about self-driving vehicles and electrification has stayed flat, but it shows that consumers are really steadfast in their opinions about new mobility technologies right now, regardless of how close they are to being available for purchase,” says Kristin Kolodge, Executive Director, Driver Interaction & Human Machine Interface Research at J.D. Power. “This isn’t necessarily bad news for automakers; rather, it shows the areas where consumers need to be better-educated and gives manufacturers the chance to correct their course on the path to eventual production.”
Specifically, respondents indicated they would not be comfortable riding in an autonomous vehicle, whether it’s a private car or public transit, with over half saying they are unlikely to ever purchase a self-driving model. This could be attributed in some way to the fact that over two-thirds (68 percent) of them admitted to having little to no knowledge of self-driving technology. System failures or errors were of primary concern to 71 percent of those surveyed, with some fearing eventual job losses concurrent with the rise of robo-vehicles. The study also found that women are more wary of riding in or sharing the road with autonomous vehicles than are men.
As for full-electric vehicles, affordability and consumer confidence remain the biggest hurdles for automakers to gain widespread acceptance. Though over half (59 percent) of respondents who have never been in an electric car said they would be “not too likely” or “not at all likely” to buy or lease one, nearly as many (60 percent) current battery-powered vehicle owners said they would be “extremely likely” or “very likely” to buy or lease another one. Of note, only four percent of those surveyed said they own or lease an electric car, while 68 percent said they’d never so much as ever ridden in one.
Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of those surveyed voiced concerns over a lack of public charging stations, with 60 percent worried about an electric car’s operating range on a charge. Three-quarters (76 percent) of those who are unfamiliar with the genre expect them to run for 300 miles or more at a time, which is a feat only the Tesla Model 3, Model S, and Model X can currently achieve in their Long Range versions. On the plus side, around two-thirds of all respondents consider electric vehicles to be better for the environment, with half of them believing it would be cheaper to charge one via the grid than to keep a conventional car’s gas tank filled.
Importantly, three-quarters of those surveyed said that available tax credits or subsidies would factor into their decision. That places Tesla and General Motors at a disadvantage, since the one-time federal $7,500 tax credit is being phased out for both automakers by law, as they have already reached a 200,000-unit sales threshold. Other automakers’ electric cars will continue to be eligible for the full credit. It has been whittled down to $1,850 for Tesla and Chevrolet plug-in vehicles. Tesla’s credit will expire at the end of 2019, with GMs being eliminated on March 31, 2020.