Electric vehicles (EVs) have been steadily gaining popularity in the US as a greener and more sustainable alternative to traditional gasoline-powered cars. However, there have been certain barriers hindering widespread EV adoption, including concerns about range, charging infrastructure, and upfront costs.
In recent years, automakers have made significant strides in addressing these concerns and have started focusing on a new segment that could potentially be a game-changer for EV adoption in the US: three-row electric utility vehicles (EUVs). These spacious and family-oriented EVs could prove to be even more important than range and price in driving the transition to electric mobility in the US.
Americans’ Love for SUVs
Sport utility vehicles (SUVs) have become a dominant force in the American automotive market, accounting for more than half of all new vehicle sales. The preference for SUVs has prompted automakers to expand their SUV offerings across various niches, including the emerging EV market.
In a recent survey conducted by Volkswagen, it was revealed that nine out of ten current SUV owners plan to stick with their vehicles for life, citing safety and comfort as major factors driving their SUV purchases.
The survey also highlighted that younger SUV drivers prioritize safety as the most important feature, while older SUV owners value comfortable seating. 43 percent of younger SUV drivers place a higher emphasis on their SUV’s handling on rough roads and overall safety compared to other generations.
The survey also revealed an interesting trend where important family discussions are now taking place on the road. Instead of relying on the traditional living room or dining room table, over eight in 10 parents stated that they engage in significant family conversations inside their SUVs, creating a new space for family bonding during trips to school or family road journeys.
In fact, a staggering 90 percent of the surveyed parents expressed their intent to continue owning an SUV and continue using it as a designated space for family discussions. Notably, SUV owners with a third row of seating are more inclined to utilize this space for family conversations, with 75 percent of them opting for it, compared to 60 percent of owners without a third row.
Additionally, younger SUV owners (aged 18-34 and 35-54) and parents are particularly fond of utilizing their SUV’s third row on a daily basis for such interactions.
Hein Schafer, Senior Vice President, Product Marketing and Strategy for Volkswagen of America, Inc. stated:
As we look to the future of Volkswagen, and the direction we are mapping out for our lineup, we understand that appetites for certain capabilities of SUVs evolve. This includes EV options in the SUV market.
Taking into account the features that we know consumers are looking for in upcoming models, we’re eager to bring a price-conscious, thoughtfully-designed, and long-range electric SUV to the U.S. market in the near future.
The Appeal of 3-Row EVs
The introduction of three-row EVs is expected to revolutionize the EV market, particularly in the family-oriented segment. Families, in particular, are seeking larger vehicles with third-row seating and ample cargo space.
Until now, there have been limited options in this category, leading many parents to opt for gasoline-powered SUVs. The availability of three-row EVs could significantly broaden the appeal of EV ownership to a new pool of buyers.
Studies indicate that the lack of charging infrastructure and high upfront costs are major concerns for potential EV buyers.
According to a recent poll conducted jointly by the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago and the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, 47% of U.S. adults expressed their reluctance to consider purchasing an electric vehicle (EV) as their next car. In contrast, only 19% of respondents indicated a strong likelihood of buying an EV in the future.
The survey also highlighted a significant concern shared by nearly 80% of the public, which is the lack of charging infrastructure. This concern was consistent across residents from cities, suburbs, and rural areas, indicating that the availability of charging stations remains a primary deterrent for potential EV buyers.
Echoing this, JD Power’s surveys, reported that the main reasons cited for not wanting an electric vehicle (EV) were the high purchase price and the scarcity of charging stations. Following closely were concerns regarding the limited driving range and the time required to charge the vehicle.
Respondents also expressed worries about EV battery performance in extreme temperatures, the overall cost of ownership, the lack of available repair shops, concerns about reliability, and potential power outages affecting the vehicles. These factors collectively contribute to the reservations many individuals have about adopting EVs.
However, as larger EVs, including three-row SUVs, hit the market, these barriers could diminish. The three-row EVs are expected to have driving ranges of at least 300 miles on a single charge, which could alleviate range anxiety among consumers.
Moreover, automakers are emphasizing the spaciousness and cargo capacity of three-row EVs, highlighting their benefits over their gas-powered counterparts. With no engine under the hood, the three-row EVs often offer a large front trunk, or “frunk,” providing additional storage space.
Changing Perceptions and Targeting New Buyers
The current EV market is primarily driven by early adopters who are drawn to new technology and environmental benefits. However, the rollout of larger, family-oriented EVs presents an opportunity to attract a broader consumer base, including more female buyers. According to JD Power, there was only a single large, 7 seat EUV on the market with the model years of 2022 and 2023, the exorbitantly expensive Mercedes EQS that is priced at $105,000.
However, there were a few more midsize 3-row EUVs on the market such as the Rivan R1S. This scarcity of large EUVs is set to change very soon.
Many of the top automakers that sell cars in the US are planning to launch a 3-row, large EUV in the near future. Kia’s EV9 and Volvo’s EX90 are both likely to go on sale within the next few months and other EV makers such as Hyundai, Toyota, and Ford have confirmed that they are working on large EUVs.
Executives from automakers like Kia expect a higher proportion of female buyers for their forthcoming three-row EV models.
Moreover, automakers are working to dispel common misconceptions about EVs, such as range anxiety and charging concerns. Education campaigns are emphasizing that EV charging can often be done while the driver is engaged in other activities, like shopping or dining, alleviating concerns about long charge times.
The Road Ahead
While EV sales continue to rise, there is still ample room for growth, especially in the family SUV segment. Larger three-row EVs are set to play a pivotal role in further accelerating EV adoption in the US.
By catering to the preferences of American families and addressing their concerns about EVs, automakers have a unique opportunity to tap into an untapped market of potential EV buyers.
As automakers invest heavily in developing and producing new EV models, they must focus on expanding interest and accessibility to EVs. Government incentives, improved charging infrastructure, and effective educational campaigns are essential in building support for an EV future.
With the arrival of three-row EVs, the prospects for a cleaner and more sustainable automotive landscape in the US look brighter than ever.
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