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Going Green Not So Easy for Brazilian Drivers

by Meire Waki , 12.03.2014

Brazilians, despite their tendency to think in a green way, have few options for purchasing an Electric Vehicle (EV), even though Brazil is home to some of the most congested cities on the planet. Sao Paulo, for instance, has the third highest number of inhabitants per vehicle.

Brazilians are more likely to behave in a "green" way than other consumers around the world. For instance, 80% of Brazilian consumers say they save energy in their own households. This compares with an average of less than 75% globally.

Brazilian citizens who claim to save water, travel in an eco-friendly way via public transport or by bicycle, consider eco-friendly shopping and use less environmentally damaging energy when travelling by car may be influenced by economic incentives. In Brazil, using ethanol is cheaper than using gas, and people have understood that saving water and energy at home keeps bills lower.

Around the world, EVs are perceived as a symbol of a modern green attitude, according to GfK’s most recent global Electric Vehicle Survey. More than half (55%) of all respondents said they have a favorable opinion of EVs. Some 77% saw benefit in low emissions and environmental friendliness. The fact that EVs are innovative appealed to 76% of those surveyed.

Limited choice and sky-high prices

Yet individual Brazilian consumers do not yet have the ability to buy EVs in Brazil. At present, only big corporations and the government can place an order for EVs, while consumers can only buy hybrid models.

According to the Brazilian Association for Electric Vehicles, only 117 hybrid and electric vehicles were registered in the whole country in 2012 and only 383 between January and October 2013.

Around the world, the image of EVs differs. In Japan, which has the highest familiarity with EVs as well as adequate infrastructure, consumers associate EVs with direct personal “me” benefits.
Japanese drivers perceive electric vehicles as easy to operate, safe and reliable.

But in China, France, Russia, the US and, to a lesser extent, Spain, the situation is the other way around. In these markets, most consumers associate EVs with the indirect, societal “we” benefit of lower emissions.

Globally, the acceptance of EVs suffers from both limited choice and high purchase prices – but also from insufficient service and repair locations, as well as a short battery lifespan.

In GfK’s EV Survey, around two thirds of Chinese, French, Japanese, Russian, Spanish and US consumers mentioned these aspects as the most negative features they associate with electric vehicles. That’s the reason why, on the one hand, a large number of people who intend to buy a car (43%) consider buying an EV. But, on the other hand, a nearly equal amount (31%) do not purchase one.

In Brazil and elsewhere, manufacturers must adjust their marketing strategy to highlight the “me” rather than the “we” benefits of EVs.

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Meire Waki is Latam Automotive Lead at GfK in Brazil. She can be reached at meire.waki@gfk.com.