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64% of Belgians who plan to purchase an electric vehicle expect to charge at home, yet the availability of a viable public charging network remains a concern 

The pandemic-induced social distancing is not a major factor for consumers to think about vehicle ownership, with only 15% considering it a key factor

Brussels, Belgium – 21 January 2021

The long-term trend toward electric vehicles (EVs) continues to solidify with 1 in 3 Belgian consumers planning to buy one next reveals Deloitte’s 2021 Global Automotive Consumer Study. While consumers in many markets around the globe are rethinking what type of vehicle and when they will buy their next due to the pandemic, 91% of Belgians say the crisis has not had any impact on the kind of vehicle they plan to buy and only 15% plan to delay the purchase of their next vehicle. However, those impacted want to spend less money. 

For more than a decade, Deloitte has been exploring automotive consumer behaviours and trends impacting the global automotive ecosystem. This year’s report titled, “2021 Global Automotive Consumer Study,” surveyed more than 24,000 consumers from 23 countries, including 1,057 consumers in Belgium. It explores opinions regarding a variety of issues impacting the global automotive sector, including implications of the pandemic on consumer perceptions, the development of advanced technologies and impact of digital automotive retail platforms.

Eric Desomer, Deloitte Belgium Automotive Leader: “The global automotive industry, like many others, has been profoundly impacted by the pandemic. Ever stricter vehicle emissions requirements in many markets around the world are also pushing the goal of electric mobility forward. A focused European recovery plan could help open up a new world of possibility.”

Consumer interest in EVs remains strong

More than 1 in 3 Belgian consumers plan to buy an electric or hybrid vehicle next. However, before petrol/diesel vehicles are completely ruled out, consumers require greater assurance around affordability, mileage and robust charging infrastructure rollouts. Nonetheless, stricter carbon emission regulations on the horizon point to a “closing window” for the traditional petrol/diesel vehicle.

  • For people intending to buy an EV, lowering fuel costs, reducing emissions, and having a better driving experience are the key reasons.
  • Like last year, the top concerns are the cost premium that needs to be paid to acquire an electric vehicle (28%), driving range (27%), and lack of charging infrastructure (19%).
  • Two thirds of EV intenders (67%) are looking to buy in the sub-€30,000 range, signaling a price threshold for the technology.
  • Most EV intenders expect to primarily charge their EVs at home (64%) or work (16%). Only 19% plan to use public chargers despite the persistent, overall concern regarding the availability of a viable charging network.

Advanced technology vehicle features are appealing to consumers. Safety technologies are still top of mind, with blind spot warning (71%) and emergency braking features (68%) among the most desired. However, 47% of Belgian consumers don’t think that full self-driving cars will be safe, compared to 43% in 2019. Notably, more Belgian consumers are concerned about the risks of someone hacking into their connected vehicle and risking their personal safety (58%) than recognise the benefits of these technologies (38%).

COVID-19 pandemic has limited impact on future vehicle intentions

While consumers in many markets are rethinking when they will be buying their next vehicle and what type of vehicle they will buy next due to the pandemic, in Belgium this phenomenon seems to be limited. In line with neighbouring countries such as Germany, only a quarter of Belgians have altered their timeline for acquiring their next vehicle, with 15% planning to delay it compared to 17% in the US, 29% in China and 38% in India . Out of those who plan to acquire their next vehicle sooner than planned, 62% stated that the availability of a government stimulus programme has had some or significant impact on their decision.

With 91% of Belgians stating that they have not changed their mind, the pandemic has hardly had any impact on the type of vehicle consumers are planning to buy, but those impacted want to spend less money, by for example buying a smaller or more fuel efficient vehicle.

Interestingly, the pandemic-induced social distancing is not a major factor for consumers to think about vehicle ownership, with only 15% considering it a key factor.

Online automotive sales rise, but the in-person experience is preferred

The COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to more virtual transactions, but certain aspects of the buying process remain difficult to digitise, reinforcing the consumers’ desire for an in-person experience. People still need to see and drive a vehicle before they buy it. In fact, only 23% of consumers are either somewhat or very likely to buy their next vehicle without a test drive. And, consumers still want a good deal with all their queries resolved and transparent pricing before they buy.

Even if people are looking for a virtual sales experience, 9 in 10 would still prefer to acquire their next vehicle physically from a dealer (83% fully in-person). Convenience coupled with speed of transaction are the main reasons for consumers to consider a virtual process for acquiring their next vehicle.

One virtual transaction that generates a high level of interest globally is virtual servicing, where a vehicle is picked up from a home or office when it needs service. Consumers in Belgium are largely in favour (49%) of the added convenience, provided it comes free of charge.

“Unlike many other retail sectors that have seen a wholesale shift to online buying, purchasing a vehicle remains a largely personal experience for many consumers with the need for the customer to see and to drive the vehicle. However, if we compare the age groups, 1 in 4 consumers aged 18-34 are looking to buy their next vehicle partially or fully online, suggesting a continued need for the automotive industry to invest in digitisation for the future,” concluded Aled Walker, Deloitte Belgium automotive expert.

Global Automotive Consumer Study 2021

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