For EV manufacturers, global demand is likely to exceed supply, at least for the Leaf and the Volt, for the next year or two. This is because production capacity is low and the vehicles are only available in a few states and countries currently. Selling to the first stage customer segment has not been difficult - these Enthusiasts, who number in the thousands, have been waiting for a long time for this generation of electric vehicles. It is important to remember that we are just at the beginning of the EV revolution - the UK EV registrations figures to date for 2011 certainly show that: 338 Leafs, 105 imievs, 77 ions, 60 smart EDs and 19 C-Zeros.
The next phase - commencing probably sometime around 2014 and lasting until 2020 - will see the entry into the market of the Early Adopters. I estimate that they will represent EV sales in the region of from 2% to 5% of total car sales (and as high as 15% in some western European cities). This is a segment of customers that are extremely interested in EVs but who are waiting before they part with their cash for the product to be receive good reviews and the price to come down somewhat. For this group of Succeeders, it's all about controlling the future, achievement, recognition and status. It is this segment that will determine how quickly EVs become mainstream vehicles because they are the critical customer segment that precede the Early Mainstreamers.
EV manufacturers will have to prepare their customer value propositions much more carefully for this customer segment, who are knowledgeable, critical and demanding. This about making the big case for electric cars, as well as making the individual case for each model.
This is when the marketing teams are really going to earn their salaries. If I were in their shoes, I would be speaking to governments today to prepare a much more convincing programme of education and awareness, one that demonstrates real commitment to EVs as the future of mobility.