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This is the Kodak Moment for the Auto Industry

Plug-In Drivers Not Missin' the Piston Electric vehicles are here to stay. Their market acceptance is currently small but growing...

Sunday, May 25, 2014

This is the Kodak Moment for the Auto Industry

Plug-In Drivers Not Missin' the Piston

Electric vehicles are here to stay. Their market acceptance is currently small but growing and it will continue to grow. Why? Not because of gas prices, CO2 emissions, polar bears, wars for oil, or other global-scale issues. For some people, especially us early adopters, these reasons matter, but the reason that EVs will continue to attract more buyers is because they provide a better driving experience and their owners love them.

J.D. Power rates hundreds of new car models based on feedback from verified owners. The buyer satisfaction ratings that they are getting for plug-in cars are consistently through the roof. Plug-in cars stand head and shoulders above gas-powered vehicles in these ratings.

EVs are here to stay because owners love the quick, smooth, quiet ride they deliver and owner the satisfaction rate is higher than any other vehicle category. 

The latest evidence of this conviction was presented at an EDTA convention. Norman Hajjar of PlugInsights Research, fresh from his 12,000-mile Tesla road trip, shared data showing the incredible loyalty of EV drivers. Over nine hundred EV owners were asked if their next vehicle would be gas-powered or plug-in. An astounding 96.9% said their next vehicle would plug in. Just 1.9% would return to a conventional vehicle.

Gas vs Electric

EVs are smooth, quiet, responsive, quick, low maintenance, and cheap to "fuel." They are just a better driving experience and this is what will make them mainstream.

To all the auto companies out there: THIS is your Kodak moment. "Kodak moment," in this case, does not mean a moment to capture on film; rather, here it means a moment in history when an upstart technology changed the game; e.g., digital photography emerged and Kodak chose to ignore it until it was too late.

Traditional car and gas companies that continue with business-as-usual are at risk of becoming the next Kodak.

It was easy to dismiss digital cameras when they first came out. The images were grainy and low resolution; early digital cameras didn't support SLR lenses. The images were really only good for sharing via email or webpages (this was before the era of social media as we know it today). Canon and Nikon, however, saw the potential, embraced the technology, and now they dominate the photo market; while Kodak (once the titan of the industry) filed for bankruptcy in 2012.

Similarly, today it is easy to dismiss EVs. Critics speak of range anxiety and high cost. They say EVs don't have the range or refueling speed of conventional cars, but they are not looking at their potential. They are not anticipating that battery technology will continue to improve, driven by the demand for ever lighter, longer-lived tablets and smartphones. Batteries are getting better and cheaper each year. Compound these improvements for a decade or two and long-range, affordable EVs will be available.

When first introduced, digital cameras were easy to dismiss. Today, in 2014, EVs are similarly easy to dismiss. It is more important to look at where they are going, rather than where they are. Dismiss them at your peril.

EV critics within the auto industry certainly are not looking at the driver satisfaction and loyalty ratings. Plug-in vehicles far surpass their gas-powered counterparts in these areas. Based on this alone, a car company, any car company, that wants to make cars that their owners love, should be making plug-in vehicles.

Once a driver tries electric, 97% of them don't ever want to go back to gas. Even the best stagecoach company no longer exists. If you work at an auto company that is not making at least some plug-in cars today, they are not likely to be in business 10 years from now. The new Kodak moment is about being relevant to the future rather than dwelling on the past.

This is the Kodak moment for the auto industry. Car companies that are not working on plug-in vehicles, will not be in business 10 years from now.

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