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Study Highlights Disconnect Between Pricey EVs and Real Shopper Expectations

The automotive press adores high-priced electric vehicles. This study reveals why most EVs are way outside the range that most buyers can afford to spend.

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A new study by ConsumerAffairs asked shoppers looking to buy a vehicle questions about their purchase plan. One of the biggest eye-openers for many might be the budget that most buyers have to buy their next new or used vehicle. For most buyers, that budget is under $23K for a new vehicle and under $19K for a used one.

Buyer budget chart used with the permission of Consumer Affairs

Contrast this with the prices of popular electric vehicles today and the disparity is shocking. Tesla’s least expensive crossover presently starts above $64,000. It is the top battery-electric vehicle by volume in America by our estimation. Number two among all BEVs is the Tesla Model 3, a sedan starting above $48,000. The remaining battery-electric vehicle deliveries don’t add up to a hill of beans by comparison. Vehicles like the 40 MPG Toyota RAV4 Hybrid outsell the most popular battery-only crossover vehicles in their price range by as much as 6 to one.

As this story is written, General Motors, Stellantis, and Toyota, three of the country’s top automakers by volume, have no affordable battery-electric vehicles on sale. None. GM had one, but it was pulled from the market six months ago because its battery needed to be replaced due to fire risk.

Nissan makes a Leaf EV that is affordable, and Hyundai and Kia both have multiple affordable EV models. However, they only build them in tiny quantities by comparison to top-selling affordable models like the Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic. Even after tax incentives, most of the Leafs, Ioniqs, Konas, and Niros built don’t fall within a $23,000 new vehicle purchase budget.

EVs like the new Lucid Air make headlines constantly, despite being built in numbers that are ridiculously low by comparison to cars everyday Americans buy and drive. A publication we have the highest respect for recently tested a new Lucid Air five-passenger sedan priced at $170,000. The vehicle was so good, the publication decided it was may well be the “Best Car To Buy In 2022.” This kind of disconnect between what nearly all Americans can afford and what the press seems to think they may really buy is concerning.

One intentional way the automotive press tries to hide the disconnect between the advertised price and actual cost that shoppers pay for an EV or any vehicle for that matter, is by ignoring destination charges, ordering fees, dealer documentation fees, dealer added options and straight-up dealer additional markups that can often total $5,000 or more. Many reviews or articles emphasize the “Starting Price” in a headline or a story about a given model and then go on to discuss or review a trim that has a price as much as double the “starting price.” Many stories will even show an image of a model priced well above the starting price the headline implies. Some writers can't even be bothered to use an honest image.

Hidden among the imaginary pricing stories for most new EVs are affordable fuel-efficient vehicles that do meet the budgets of many shoppers. At least before the dealers mark them up by $5K. Among them are the $22K Ford Maverick Hybrid XL. In a perfect world, the automotive media would pay tribute to the models that are attainable by many Americans and be honest about the unicorns.

Image courtesy of Lucid media support. Buyer budget chart used with the permission of ConsumerAffairs.

John Goreham is a long-time New England Motor Press Association member and recovering engineer. John's interest in EVs goes back to 1990 when he designed the thermal control system for an EV battery as part of an academic team. After earning his mechanical engineering degree, John completed a marketing program at Northeastern University and worked with automotive component manufacturers, in the semiconductor industry, and in biotech. In addition to Torque News, John's work has appeared in print in dozens of American news outlets and he provides reviews to many vehicle shopping sites. You can follow John on TikTok @ToknCars, on Twitter, and view his credentials at Linkedin

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bob E (not verified)    March 17, 2022 - 12:41PM

Deception when talking about autos is nothing new. The EPA generates mileage figures for their cars using real gas, but most of us have to buy engine killing E10 or even E15.

And as far as the disconnects go, that's a fact of the American economy. There are Haves who can buy whatever they want, and there are Havenots who must purchase the dregs.