Ian Plummer, Commercial Director for Auto Trader, is joining the EV SUMMIT 2023 as a Keynote Speaker.
Auto Trader is the UK’s leading automotive marketplace, and is the Headline Partner for the EV SUMMIT. They have committed to an electric future with the launch of their exclusive EV platform. On top of that, they’ve even taken the plunge into the wider world of emobility with their ebikes sales platform.
Ian joined Auto Trader in 2017, with over 20 years of experience in the automotive industry. He is responsible for leading Auto Trader’s relationships with automotive manufacturers, lenders as well as franchised retailers to ensure value and revenue for them in new and used car sales. All of this hard work contributes to the developing second-hand EV market. This market is essential to ensuring that EVs will be affordable enough in the future to facilitate widespread adoption.
We caught up with Ian ahead of the EV SUMMIT next week, on the 30-31st of October, to talk about his journey into the world of emobility.
Tell us about your role as Commercial Director at Auto Trader, how do electric vehicles feature in this?
My role is to oversee our relationships with automotive manufacturers, lenders and franchised retailers to ensure value and revenue for them in new and used car sales. I’m driven by the need to quickly decarbonise transport and I am leadership team sponsor for our Sustainability network, where Auto Trader colleagues work together on a whole range of sustainability efforts, as well as Auto Trader’s net zero working group where our aim is to put the brakes on carbon.
These responsibilities have allowed me to participate in projects such as gaining formal accreditation from the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) for our net zero targets and our work with the Carbon Literacy Trust who we have partnered with to offer the Automotive Literacy toolkit to the entire industry. I also lead our strategic pillar to support both the industry and consumers in the transition to electric, which we think of as helping everyone to make environmentally friendlier choices.
In your role, you see some powerful data sets on consumer behaviour and intent as well as EV sales – how does that inform both your own thinking on EVs and Auto Traders?
We’re a data company first and foremost and our position as the UK’s largest automotive marketplace provides us with an enviable dataset. We’re fortunate enough to have visibility on the entire buying cycle from consideration right through to purchase as well as key retailer metrics including stock levels, speed of sale and pricing – including manufacturer pricing behaviour. We can see specific spikes when petrol, and more recently, electricity prices hit the headlines and the impact this has on consumer behaviour.
We can also track longer-term trends, having the best view on the UK adoption of electric vehicles over the last few years has been really powerful – we’ve been able to report on consumer interest before this was reflected in sales. This meant we were able to sound the alarm that the growth in electric demand was slowing, even plateauing, at the end of last year as well as document the growing demand as prices have fallen over 2023. Demographic data coupled with consumer behaviour gives us a really clear view of exactly who is looking at which fuel types, so we’ve been able to see the wealthy early adopters over the last couple of years and we can now see that there’s a gap where not enough of the mainstream market is looking to make the switch anytime soon.
Wherever possible, we share our data and insights with the industry as well as government, to highlight potential future problems as well as suggest solutions. We can see the value in our insights and scale in informing and accelerating the transition to electric cars, but also to any and every form of sustainable mobility, including the likes of e-bikes which we’ve recently developed on our platform too. What good is data if you don’t act on it?
What needs to happen to speed up the transition to electric vehicles?
At the moment, electric vehicles represent a new and difficult challenge to the general public, there are lots of myths that need to be debunked and a greater sense of clarity and consistency is needed throughout the electric vehicle experience before we can achieve mass adoption. There are questions upon questions that consumers need to both ask and answer as they make the switch to electric and so education needs to be a key focus for many in the emobility ecosystem.
We believe that electric cars need to be easier to afford, charge and buy and each of these areas requires a lot of work. Some, such as national infrastructure, should happen naturally over time but others require detailed attention. For example, we all need to be speaking the same simpler, consistent language to reduce confusion and make this change as simple as possible for consumers – seeing different terminology from different companies is going to cause further frustration and exasperation in an already tricky journey.
Right now, we must focus on taking a targeted and segmented approach to educating drivers about the benefits of electric vehicles. Many consumers have been put off making the switch by negative media and government rhetoric, those who weren’t interested are now even less so. So, we must focus on the group that electric vehicles make the most sense for – if 60% of UK population have driveways but less than 3% of cars on the roads are electric then there’s a big section of people for whom electric could be a great option, but that aren’t making the switch for a variety of reasons. We need to practise empathy, see things from the perspective of the unconvinced – how else can we hope to achieve mass electric adoption?
If we can build on the much-needed empathy in the way we engage with potential electric car and van buyers, there are also equally clear needs for industry-wide and government action. There are three main areas that can help deliver greener, fairer solutions for mass market EV adoption: reduced VAT on used EVs, equalised prices and taxation for public charging and standardised battery health data to ensure confidence in the crucial used EV market.
As a partner of the EV SUMMIT, what role do you see events like this playing in the future of the emobility space?
As I mentioned earlier, electric vehicles can be very overwhelming for many people, if this confusion is increased due to lack of collaboration within the EV space, then we’re getting something very wrong. Our role, everyone in the emobility and automotive industry, is to work together to make this transition as easy as possible and right now we’re just not there yet.
At Auto Trader, we’re very fortunate to sit at the heart of the automotive ecosystem – working across brands, retailers, funders, CPOs, etc. – so we’re well placed to see both the need and the benefits of collaboration and partnership right across that space. If each actor solely focuses on their own individual angles in what is clearly a hugely challenging industry transition, the likely outcome won’t be a strong and fast movement, rather a very painful and disruptive one. In that case, everyone risks losing.
So, partnership and joined-up thinking surely has to be the order of the day. And events such as the EV Summit are excellent opportunities for different parts of the sector to get together and begin to solve problems collaboratively rather in silos. We need to think from the consumer point of view to provide a joined up, seamless experience where they pass between different touchpoints – EV retailer, home charging point provider, public charging infrastructure payment system – with ease.
Ebikes are a fast growth sector. Where do you see the use of ebikes in the transport mix of the UK?
We’re focusing on supporting consumers to make environmentally friendly vehicle and journey choices. With half of all UK car trips being less than 5 miles, e-bikes are a great option for shorter, small-load, single-passenger journeys. We see the future of transport as a multi-modal, seamless sequence of connections between mobility solutions that match requirements of each part of the journey. What does that mean? Well, rather than driving to the station, could you ride an e-bike? Is there a cycle lane that ensures you feel safe getting to the station? And is there safe, reliable storage at the station so that you can feel confident leaving your e-bike there overnight? Once you get to your final destination, is there a, perhaps rentable, e-mobility solution you could use rather than jumping in a taxi?
We need these options to be the easiest, most convenient options available at any time to help us all make the behaviour changes needed to decarbonise transport. E-bikes can and will play a vital role in changing the way we think about transport, highlighting that each journey is a choice and an opportunity for us to reduce our impact on our natural environment.
In your role at Auto Trader, you get access to a lot of cars. What are some of your favourite EVs and why?
I’ve been lucky enough to drive almost all the current EVs on our roads and I first have to say that I haven’t yet come across one that I didn’t like! I think they’re amazing. Their smooth, quiet, yet highly responsive drive qualities are incredible; their tech features are obviously right at the forefront of what’s possible; and there are some really stand out designs that have won multiple design awards that go well beyond just the automotive sector.
If I have to pick a few stand out models, I’d go for the looks and elegance of the Porsche Taycan, the design and great tech as well as charging capability of Hyundai IONIQ 5, Polestar 2 and Kia EV6, the industry leading Tesla Model 3, and the oh-so quirky Citroen Ami! But I’m most looking forward to seeing now is the arrival on the market of so many new models from new brands as well as more established players who are now preparing the launch of much more affordable, and no less desirable, models that we need so badly if we’re to accelerate mass adoption of EVs.
There is no shortage of exciting cars on the horizon with the likes of the all-new Renault 5 which looks amazing, the Citroen C3, BYD’s Dolphin, Volkswagen’s iD2 and so many more that I really hope are going to turn the heads of so many more car buyers in the years ahead.
Thank you to Ian for his time, and for his valuable insights into the EV industry. We’re excited to hear what he has to say at the summit itself!
In-person spaces are disappearing fast, but if you’re unable to make it to Oxford, you can purchase an online pass. Crucially, online attendees still gain access to the Digital Introductions app.