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Kia Canada’s director of marketing, Michael Kopke, explains how consumer anxiety about EV range and public charging is due to unfamiliarity with the EV driving experience

Lack of consumer awareness continues to be one of the most significant barriers to electric vehicle adoption in Canada, according to a survey commissioned by Kia Canada and executed by polling company Angus Reid.

Given the strategic importance of electric vehicles to Kia’s future — earlier this year the South Korean carmaker launched Plan S, a US$25-billion effort to bring 11 EVs to market globally by 2025 — it’s little wonder that consumer education is a company priority.

Electric Autonomy Canada spoke to Michael Kopke, Kia Canada’s director of marketing, in an exclusive video interview, to learn more about the survey’s findings and the company’s approaches to consumer education, both corporately and at the dealer level. 

“As a customer goes into a showroom, they’re going to be able to find an EV… We have a significant increase in supply for 2021”

Michael Kopke, Director of Marketing, Kia Canada

Drivers divided

Among the highlights, the survey found that 51 per cent of Canadians intend to or would consider purchasing an EV as their next vehicle. However, 82 percent of Canadians have never driven an EV, and 47 percent of those surveyed still would not consider an EV due to misconceptions such as a perceived lack of charging infrastructure, long charging times, inadequate vehicle range and high cost.

(By comparison, a study published today by Clean Energy Canada and Abacus Data finds that 64 per cent of Canadians hope electric cars become the majority of vehicles that consumers drive, and even more — 76 per cent — believe that will be the case.) 

Of the concerns raised in the Kia-Angus Reid survey, Kopke ranks infrastructure and range at the top. “It has to do with just general awareness,” he says. “There is quite frankly a lack of experience.”

Once people spend some time in an EV, they start to realize where the charging stations are; they also grasp the significance of charging at home, he says.

Kopke says Kia Canada is working to educate consumers on these issues through media outreach programs, information on its corporate website, and by sending social media influencers on the road in Kia EVs to “demystify” the experience for their followers.

On the sales side, the company requires dealers that sign up to carry EVs to meet specific commitments with regards to training for salespeople as well as service technicians.

“The salesperson’s role is to make sure the customer ultimately goes into the right vehicle for them,” says Kopke. “Some people come in looking for electric but based on their personal lifestyle and what they actually use, a plug-in hybrid actually might be better… Sometimes what the customer says and wants might not be the best solution for them.”

Delivery expectations

With supply shortages and long wait times for vehicle deliveries a problem with many EV manufacturers in Canada, dealerships also need to be able to educate consumers and manage expectations around supply.

On that point, Kopke notes that OEMs around the world are struggling to meet demand. At Kia Canada, specifically, he says vehicle inventory is up considerably from where it was at the start of 2020.  

“As a customer goes into a showroom, they’re going to be able to find an EV… We have a significant increase in supply for 2021.” 

Watch the video below for the full interview.

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