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Electric Vehicle Depreciation: A Speed Bump on the Road to Market Dominance


Benjamin Hughes

April 5, 2024 - 00:15 am


Electric Vehicle Depreciation: Impetus to Thwart Market Expansion

In an ever-shifting automotive market, electric vehicles (EVs) have become a new benchmark for innovation and sustainability. Despite this, a recently disclosed study has unearthed a startling depreciation rate for electric vehicles, potentially placing a roadblock on the path to broader market acceptance.

Key Points: A Comparative Depreciation Dilemma

Electric vehicles, celebrated as the harbingers of a greener future, have encountered a financial dilemma that could curb consumer enthusiasm. A comprehensive analysis by reveals that the average price of an EV, ranging from one to five years old, plummeted by an astonishing 31.8% over the past year, contrasted with a mere 3.6% devaluation for vehicles powered by internal combustion engines (ICEs). The staggering disparity equates to an average value loss of EVs at $14,418 compared to their gasoline counterparts.

This precipitous decline in used EV prices might attract a portion of potential buyers seeking affordable green alternatives. Still, it might simultaneously undermine the demand for the latest electric marvels rolling off production lines.

Karl Brauer, an executive analyst at iSeeCars, has expressed concern, noting, "The value a new car loses in the first few years is the single most expensive aspect of owning a new vehicle. When consumers recognize the massive drop in EV values they may shy away from purchasing new ones."

The Verdict from Investment and Industry Experts

David Kuo, stock analyst and co-founder of the Smart Investor, has drawn parallels between EVs and consumer electronics, such as laptops and smartphones, in terms of rapid value erosion post-purchase. "Electric vehicles are likely to depreciate significantly faster than their internal combustion counterparts, costing you now but depreciating quickly," Kuo opined during an interview with CNBC's "Street Signs Asia".

His viewpoint is bolstered by conversations with industry giants. Representatives from Volkswagen (VW) and Toyota have conveyed to Bloomberg their concerns over diminishing EV resale values, terming it a detriment to the overall value proposition of their battery-operated fleets.

The underlying software and computing elements of EVs present another quandary, as Kuo suggests, potentially becoming outdated or incompatible with newer updates, leading to a "lightbulb moment" for buyers who might feel they overpaid initially.

Unfavorable Market Conditions

It's not just the futuristic allure of EVs or their teething technological issues that have contributed to their depreciation. Market conditions appear to be a significant factor. An aggressive pricing strategy by Tesla, in particular, has initiated a cascade effect throughout the EV market. As Tesla slashes prices to appeal to a broader consumer base, the used EV market bears the brunt, finding it challenging to maintain valuation.

iSeeCars' Brauer elucidates, "[Elon Musk's] persistent slashing of Tesla prices to boost sales will likely perpetuate the downward tug on the market prices, mimicking the pattern observed over the past year and a half." Even Tesla's Chief Financial Officer Vaibhav Taneja has hinted at continued cost-reduction strategies throughout 2024, possibly foreshadowing further EV price wars (CNBC).

A surplus in electric vehicle production in relation to actual demand has further exacerbated the situation, inflicting an overstock that does not bode well for a near-term recovery of both new and used EV prices.

However, this ongoing predicament for the EV sector may unexpectedly benefit the hybrid vehicle market. Hybrids, which merge conventional gasoline engines with electric power, have exhibited relative market resilience. Last year, the average price for used hybrid vehicles fell a moderate 6.5% or $2,135, far less steep than the plunge in average EV prices.

Brauer predicts a bright trajectory for hybrids: "Hybrids serve as an excellent intermediary between gasoline and electric vehicles. They are likely to garner increasing popularity over the next decade."

An In-Depth Look at EV Depreciation Trends

The concept that "a car loses value as soon as you drive it off the lot” is reaching new heights in the realm of electric vehicles. As champions of a more sustainable environment and the advancement of automotive technology, EVs have become desirable assets for car buyers with an ecological conscience and a taste for technological innovation. Yet, their depreciation rate outpaces that of conventional vehicles, which casts shadows over their economic viability.

The precipitous decline in used EV valuations is causing both consumers and investors to second-guess the wisdom of electric. Delving into the data, the study highlights not only the notable depreciation of EVs but potentially underscores a shift in the perception of 'value' within the automotive market – where longevity and resale potential begin to outweigh the initial allure of innovation and sustainability.

The Psychological Impact on Consumer Behavior

The awareness of rapid depreciation can significantly deter potential buyers from investing in new EVs, especially if they equate the initial high purchase cost with a swift and substantial loss in value. This psychological barrier could indeed threaten to derail what has been a steadily climbing market share for electric vehicles.

Experts like Brauer have articulated the financial impact of depreciation, pinpointing it as arguably the heftiest cost associated with new vehicle ownership. The revelation of such an alarming trend in the EV space may prompt a wave of reassessment among potential buyers, steering them toward more traditional vehicular options until the market stabilizes.

Evolution or Obsolescence? The Technological Quandary

Beyond the initial shock of depreciation, there lies the added complexity of rapid technological advancement and its implications for the longevity of electric vehicles. The notion that the sophisticated software and hardware powering today's EVs may become obsolete or incompatible with future standards presents an additional layer of economic and functional uncertainty for owners.

As Kuo emphasizes, the depreciation of EVs may mirror the swift devaluation faced by other consumer electronics—a sector notorious for rapid innovation cycles that render preceding models outdated within a short timeframe. When applied to the automotive industry, this dynamic could have profound ramifications, potentially compelling consumers to view EVs through a more hesitant, tech-consumer lens.

Tesla's Price Strategy: A Double-Edged Sword

Tesla's role in the shifting valuation of electric vehicles cannot be overstated. As the prominent player in the U.S. EV market, Tesla's pricing decisions have a ripple effect across the board. The company's strategy to cut prices on new EVs renders used variants less attractive, thereby skewing the balance of the entire market ecosystem. Brauer's analysis suggests that as long as this trend persists, the EV market could face a sustained downturn, making recovery a challenging prospect.

Such a strategy, as Musk articulated, is rooted in the notion of necessity rather than choice. By positioning EVs as essentials rather than luxuries, Tesla is intent on making its vehicles accessible to a broader demographic, irrespective of the broader market implications.

The Other Side: Is There A Silver Lining?

The gloomy forecast for EV pricing might, paradoxically, present an opportune moment for consumers on the prowl for a deal. The current state of the market suggests that those interested in purchasing a used electric vehicle could benefit from the prevailing low prices. Though this might prompt short-term individual gains, the long-term impact on the industry's growth remains uncertain.

Additionally, as the market self-corrects, manufacturers may be encouraged to innovate cost-effective production methods or refine existing technologies to enhance the lifespan and resale value of EVs.

The Hybrids' Ascent

In a landscape where fully electric vehicles are losing ground in terms of resale value, hybrid vehicles emerge as victors, enjoying a surge in both new and used vehicle markets. With a depreciation rate substantially gentle compared to pure EVs, hybrids represent a pragmatic choice for consumers teetering between traditional and electric options.

Hybrids' relative stability in valuation not only reflects consumer confidence but also highlights an evolving market that values the pragmatic middle ground over the pursuit of purely electric futures. As Brauer foresees, these hybrids could play a defining role in the gradual transition toward a fully electrified automotive era.

To summarize, the burgeoning depreciation rates of electric vehicles may not spell the demise of the EV industry but rather signal a period of recalibration. Consumers, industry experts, and automakers alike must navigate this juncture with informed strategies and flexibility, as the automotive world hurtles toward an electrified horizon.

Ultimately, the future of the electric vehicle market remains in flux, teetering between rapid advancement and economic pragmatism. It is a crucial moment that may well define the trajectory of sustainable transportation in the years to come.