While the rest of the auto industry struggles, electric and hybrid vehicles have taken off, with electric cars increasing sales by a whopping 134% year-on-year. Nearly every automaker is playing catch-up in developing their own EV line, but currently Tesla dominates the market, leading the electric revolution. They account for approximately 4 out of 10 electric vehicle sales in the US, and recently eclipsed GM and Ford in market valuation, making Tesla the most valuable American car company in the world.
What is the secret behind their momentum in the electric revolution? It constitutes a unique blend of innovation, branding and PR strategy, spearheaded by their prominent CEO, Elon Musk. Since it was publicly announced in 2016, the Model 3 has been a magnet for publicity. This year, the roll-out of the first several Tesla models was expertly crafted to build coverage and anticipation over the entire month of July. As searches for Tesla soared, they appeared to pull search share away from other EV players like the Hyundai Ioniq.
These peaks of interest in the Model 3 over the month of July were mirrored within several auto industry websites, like Car and Driver. Below we break down a play-by-play timeline of the Model 3 subpage rank on caranddriver.com over the course of July.
All this hype is great — but does it translate to widespread purchase intent for the Model 3? Perhaps not. During the week when the first Model 3 vehicles were released, searches for “tesla model 3” drove a lot of traffic to technology publications like the Verge and Wired, and less relative share to its own website compared to other electric vehicle brands.
Meanwhile, other EV brands pull a higher share of search traffic to their own websites, as well as comparison sites like Edmunds, iMotors or Car and Driver, suggesting more potent signs of purchase intent. Tesla has captured public attention, but the burden still remains to convert enough interested researchers to make up for the steep financial investment it’s made in the Model 3. As of our electric car analysis last year, the median income of Tesla buyers was $422k annually; so the company has a long way to go before becoming economically to a wider audience.
A tip for other car brands: leverage the power of anticipation and plant seeds of desire in future customers. Like Tesla, auto brands have the opportunity to stoke early desire amongst future customers before they are ready to buy. This can be a particularly powerful strategy for electric vehicles, where it’s crucial to fight for mindshare early in the electric revolution.
Click here to download the full Auto Trends Report 2017.
Methodology: Searches for top electric vehicles pulled using Hitwise Intelligence from 6/3/2017 – 8/18/2017. Sub-domain traffic share for caranddriver.com pulled using Hitwise Article Tracker, over 4 individual weeks ending 7/29/17. Downstream search clicks (website traffic) from search terms “tesla model 3” “hyundai ioniq” “nissan leaf” and “chevy bolt” pulled over the week ending 7/29/17. Click here for a free demo.