Mini Survey Showcases Mixed Opinions on EVs

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

With governments strongly encouraging the growth of electric vehicles and automakers repositioning various brands to align with that goal, it’s worth a manufacturer’s time to examine the market. Mini, which BMW Group intends to evolve into an EV-focused nameplate, plans to release its first battery powered vehicle in 2020. However, before that occurs, the brand decided to commission Engine International for a little market research.

The firm conducted a general population survey of 1,004 presumably average Americans — all above the age of 18 and split equally by gender. Unfortunately for BMW, the results were less than promising. Most people still don’t seem to have a handle on what EVs offer or how they function. However, that might not necessarily be because they are clueless morons. Apathy undoubtedly plays a role here, especially as EV ownership remains relatively rare.

“It is important for us as a brand to understand how consumers want to use their electric vehicles, and what they know and don’t know about them as we move closer to the launch of the MINI Cooper S E electric vehicle in the U.S.,” said Andrew Cutler, head of Mini’s corporate communications in the U.S. “The more intelligence we gather, the more we can educate consumers about the many benefits of electric mobility and what MINI has to offer in the new MINI Cooper S E electric vehicle coming in early 2020.”

With 74 percent of respondents claiming they had no clue where the nearest EV charging station is located in relation to their home and 66 percent claiming to believe that electric cars were primarily for early adopters, Mini said the survey underscored a need to “raise mainstream awareness around EV technology.”

That’s no doubt true, especially if the brand hopes to thrive after shifting away from internal combustion engines. We’re more inclined to believe that mainstream tastes simply haven’t caught up to electric cars. They’re still relatively novel contraptions associated with a mobility culture that makes some people a little uneasy.

Other less encouraging aspects of the survey included feedback on charging times and what EVs were good for. Most individuals claimed they were primarily for commuting and urban driving. It’s an assumption many automakers are trying to change, but you one could still make a strong case for. While charging stations are cropping up all over North America, the network isn’t quite robust enough to ensure headache-free EV ownership across the board. Relatively wide gaps in some rural areas remain.

When consumers were asked to choose an acceptable amount of time it should take to charge an EV, the most popular answer (at 28 percent) was “I don’t know,” followed by “30 minutes” (at 25 percent). As charging/battery technology continues to advance, times vary wildly between vehicles and stations. At-home charging frequently requires tucking the car in for the night while some newer e-vehicles, utilizing high-capacity stations, can get a majority charge within 30 minutes. However, a complete charge usually takes substantially more time — if you have a smartphone, you’ve seen this phenomenon in action. That last 20 percent always seems to take forever.

There was some good news for Mini within the survey, though. The company said that many who responded to the poll indicated the federal tax credit would not be a significant part of their decision making process if they decided to purchase an electric car — perhaps because they were unaware that it equates to free money from the government. We don’t care what you’re buying — a $7,500 tax credit is absolutely going to influence your decision.

The automaker also claimed that 73 percent of the consumers surveyed said that a battery range of up to 75 miles was sufficient for their daily use. That’s something carmakers can deliver now, suggesting that range anxiety might not be a problem for Mini or BMW Group as the shift toward electrification continues. But we still think a cautious approach is the correct one. Build those EVs and improve the charging network; just don’t presume your customer base is universally ready — even with the proper education from automakers.

[Images: BMW Group]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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  • Stingray65 Stingray65 on Apr 16, 2019

    People claim to only need 75 miles of range, but people don't buy "need", they buy "want". If we only bought need, virtually no one would be buying SUVs because virtually no one needs to go off road. Virtually no one would be buying an engine or suspension upgrade because the base 2.5 liter 150 hp with skinny all-season radials is more than enough to break every speed law in the USA. Nobody also needs sunroofs, ventilated seats, 900 speaker stereos, or a 21 foot long pickups with 10,000+ lbs of towing capacity, but they buy them because they "want" them. 75 miles would be more than enough for most people's commuter needs, but people "want" to be able to drive across the country at a moments notice, or off-road far away from power outlets, or to get in and out of a car without having to constantly remember to plug-in or unplug the damn battery with some bulky cable.

    • HotPotato HotPotato on Apr 20, 2019

      For those people, there are Teslas. And Jaguars and Audis and all the other rich-guy EVs coming soon. But we don't need any more rich-guy EVs. We need someone to make a Leaf but better and cheaper. We need, basically, the Tesla of Corollas. Musk seems to have taken the first step toward admitting that he runs a luxury brand and can't afford to do that, so while the Model 3 is a step in that direction, it's the Chinese who will probably get there.

  • Jkross22 Jkross22 on Apr 16, 2019

    "Most people still don’t seem to have a handle on what EVs offer or how they function." So? If you need to educate your customers on features/benefits, that's part of the sales process. Maybe the problem is that BMW/MINI relies on its badge and its salescritters don't know how to educate people. Just spitballing the obvious....

  • JK I grew up with Dodge trucks in the US, and now live in Turin, Italy, the home of Fiat. I don't think Italians view this as an Italian company either. There are constant news articles and protests about how stalantis is moving operations out of Italy. Jeep is strangely popular here though. I think last time I looked at stelantis's numbers, Jeep was the only thing saving them from big big problems.
  • Bd2 Oh yeah, funny how Trumpers (much less the Orange Con, himself) are perfectly willing to throw away the Constitution...
  • Bd2 Geeze, Anal sure likes to spread his drivelA huge problem was Fisher and his wife - who overspent when they were flush with cash and repeatedly did things ad hoc and didn't listen to their employees (who had more experience when it came to auto manufacturing, engineering, etc).
  • Tassos My Colleague Mike B bought one of these (the 300 SEL, same champagne color) new around June 1990. I thought he paid $50k originally but recently he told me it was $62k. At that time my Accord 1990 Coupe LX cost new, all included, $15k. So today the same car means $150k for the S class and $35k-40k for the Accord. So those %0 or 62k , these were NOT worthless, Idiot Joe Biden devalued dollars, so he paid AN ARM AND A LEG. And he babied the car, he really loved it, despite its very weak I6 engine with a mere 177 HP and 188 LBFT, and kept it forever. By the time he asked me to drive it (to take him to the dealer because his worthless POS Buick Rainier "SUV" needed expensive repairs (yes, it was a cheap Buick but he had to shell out thousands), the car needed a lot of suspension work, it drove like an awful clunker. He ended up donating it after 30 years or so. THIS POS is no different, and much older. Its CHEAPSKATE owner should ALSO donate it to charity instead of trying to make a few measly bucks off its CARCASS. Pathetic!
  • RHD The re-paint looks like it was done with a four-inch paintbrush. As far as VWs go, it's a rebadged Seat... which is still kind of a VW, made in Mexico from a Complete Knock-Down kit. 28 years in Mexico being driven like a flogged mule while wearing that ridiculous rear spoiler is a tough life, but it has actually survived... It's unique (to us), weird, funky (very funky), and certainly not worth over five grand plus the headaches of trying to get it across the border and registered at the local DMV.