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New players, New brands & New Energy Vehicle (NEV) talks with George Mienie

Written by: Anazi Zote Piper

Recently, Smarter Mobility Africa news sat down with George Mienie, CEO, of AutoTrader South Africa to discuss the results of the EV Car Buyer Survey for 2023. 

AutoTrader in partnership with Smarter Mobility Africa, part of the Vuka Group, annually compiles a survey designed to gather valuable insights into the preferences, behaviours, and priorities of consumers in the electric vehicle (EV) market.  

By reaching out to a diverse demographic of potential EV buyers, this survey aims to understand the factors influencing purchasing decisions and identify emerging trends in the rapidly evolving landscape of electric mobility. The findings from this survey will guide automakers and industry stakeholders to stay attuned to consumer demands and shape the future of the electric transition. 

George Mienie, CEO of AutroTrader expresses his excitement behind the transition to NEVs, “I would imagine this time is like the transition from the horse to the model T Ford. It’s an exciting time because it’s still mobility but it’s an entire new form of mobility, it’s new technology. Really the only thing that’s the same is the shape of the car,” says Mienie.  

Market trends and analysis 

Since its inception in 2019, this survey has led potential South African EV car buyers on a road to discovery. From a high-level view, consumers from the 2023 report are more aligned to the realities of home and fast charging, according to Mienie. Consumers don’t want to pay more than R500 000 for an EV, leaving a major price gap when it comes to the affordability of the vehicle. Consumers don’t want an EV with less than 300km of range, range anxiety is still an alarming issue.  

The report demonstrates there are still challenges facing consumer perceptions and understanding of EVs however, the education and awareness is steadily gaining traction in South Africa. Mienie Is confident that consumer preferences will be heavily influenced by education and awareness within the market, which this survey aims to do.  

“The way that a human being will change their mind is if there is compelling evidence that this new thing will make their future better. The pain of change needs to be less than the pain of staying the same,” recommends Mienie.  

Policy and adoption 

This year alone EV sales have doubled in South Africa in the first half of 2023. To maintain this exponential growth, there needs to be a strong focus from government to support the adoption of EVs as well as develop policies to attract EV sales. Firstly, Mienie suggests dropping the import price as an incentive to draw consumers to purchase electric vehicles. Secondly, as an alternative using corporate businesses to drive the adoption and sale of EVs is an even better option. 

“Using incentives directly with the consumer is a difficult uphill battle but using incentives that use corporate businesses to drive fleets is a better solution to drive EV sales and demand,” according to Mienie.   

Price pain point 

Over the year there has been a subtle shift to consumers willing to pay R600 000. Now consumers have slightly more appetite to purchase an EV. What’s in that appetite? The second-hand market. The challenge is that the initial price point for EVs coming to South Africa was nothing short of R1 million, so to get the vehicle to depreciate to the R500 000 price mark is going to take some time.  

Local manufacturing & sustainable practice 

Many manufacturing plants in Europe are changing their production lines to manufacture EVs. The one competitive advantage in Africa is the abundance of minerals that Europe needs.  

“It makes sense for South Africa to focus on battery production and add value to the continent and not allow the raw materials to leave our shores. For the short term it makes sense to focus on battery production and value added on the continent because of where those raw materials are located. In the long term, we can get to become a automotive manufacturing country,” says Mienie. 

A pivotal step towards sustainability and economic growth is through EV local manufacturing. With the transition becoming cleaner and more efficient for all countries there is an imperative to establish EV manufacturing facilities within a local context. This not only reduces dependency on foreign markets but also create jobs that will boost the domestic economy.  

With all these trends and shifts in the market, The AutoTrader EV Car Buyer Survey provides invaluable insight for the 2023 e-mobility industry. In the coming years it will play a pivotal role in unpacking transformative trends, drive innovation and navigate South Africa’s e-mobility future towards an ever-expanding market.

Full report: 2023 Electric Vehicle Buyers Survey

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