Mercury spending $6m on expanding EV subscription fleet

Mercury is spending$6 million to expand its electric vehicle subscription service fleet, following a two-year trial that revealed what worked – and what didn’t.

The electricity generator and retailer is aiming to add around 50 cars a month to its fleet to lift its total EV subscription fleet to around 450 vehicles.

Chief marketing officer Julia Jack, said the expansion came after carefully studying customer preferences and playing in the global used car market to establish what vehicles were economically viable.

“We’ve spent the last two years watching, testing and learning, and now we’re ready to deliver on a bigger scale. Key to this was identifying models that tick the boxes for people in terms of affordability, performance and practicality and the standout during this stage was the Nissan Leaf.”

The early model Leafs are rented out for $399 a month – with insurance, registration, warrant of fitness and maintenance covered.She said the mid-range Gen-2 Leafs were proving most popular and the company were buying them up overseas.They are rented out for $599 a month.

She said the numbers for high-end E-Golfs ($1600 a month) and the sole Tesla ($2800) didn’t stack up.There was consumer resistance to those prices.

”There was a chap who leased that out but he was very much a try-before-you-buy type.”

She said subscribers in the pilot were evenly split between male and female and were from all age groups. Some wanted a commuting car in addition to a bigger family vehicle.

”We are seeing different motivators.Some are in the try-before-they-buy category, others don’t want the capital outlay at all, some (subscribe) from the purely environmental standpoint and others are excited about the new model of ownership.”

The latter may never own a car, she said.

It’s expected that at full capacity Mercury’s service will result in more than 500 people in the programme in the first year.

She said that in the current climate, ongoing vehicle ownership expenses like Wofs, Road User Charges, and maintenance costs were becoming less and less palatable.

“Both here and globally we’re seeing more people seriously consider subscription services in the wake of economic uncertainty caused by Covid-19. There’s much less appetite for ‘dead assets’ sitting in the driveway, depreciating by the minute.”

The sale ofEVs across the country was disappointing, said Jack.

”We’re around 20,000 vehicles which is still way less than 1 per cent of the light transport fleet. For a country with the level of renewable electricity that we have it should be a no brainer.”

Initial capital outlay was the biggest barrier and the lack of a scaled second-hand market here was a problem. The Government’s renewed push to electrify its 16,000-strong fleet would help boost the second-hand market.

Jack said Mercury was importing the cars in small batches – including 35 just landed – to avoid problems caused global supply constraints because of the pandemic.

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