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Published March 11th 2016

Social Presence Showdown: Choosing the Best Electric Car

We've pitted three electric car brands against each other in the latest Social Presence Showdown to discover which is the best electric car on the market.

While we’re still a little while off that brilliant reality (sadly), another future invention is already upon us: the electric car.

This relatively young niche of the automotive industry has sparked into life in the last few years, with an increasing number of models now available.

We’ve taken a look at the three most popular electric cars in the US, and plugged them into Brandwatch to see if social has picked its best electric car.

All of the below charts were taken from Brandwatch Analytics, looking at social data from January 1st 2015 – December 31st 2015.

Total mentions

Despite the Nissan LEAF being the world’s all-time best-selling all-electric car, it trails behind the Tesla S in mentions in every week but two.

In November, Nissan tested a self-driving version of the LEAF, helping to push the mention count above the Tesla for the first time since the start of the year, when all three cars were running neck and neck.

The LEAF narrowly gains more mentions than the i3, but it’s a close-run thing.

Tesla’s regular large spikes in conversation are driven by specific news stories, including its own autonomous version and the addition of a ‘Ludicrous’ driving mode.

Sentiment analysis

While the Tesla S dominates in pure mentions, it lags behind in terms of sentiment, with the lowest positive score of 76.2%.

The BMW i3 finishes the year with 88.3% positive sentiment, beating the Nissan LEAF into second place with 80.9% positive.

Gender analysis

While all three cars are clearly dominated by male conversation, it’s the Tesla that gains the highest percentage of man-talk.

Men account for 75% of the conversation, compared to 64.9 for the BMW and 66.7 for the Nissan.

Associated features

Electric cars associated words chart

Using Brandwatch Analytics categorization capabilities we were able to understand the kind of language people use when talking about these three car models.

Uncovering which features are most associated with your product can give brands an understanding of how their marketing is being received, and highlight areas that they may wish to focus on.

The Tesla dominates on multiple fronts. Words associated with acceleration, power and speed are all heavily weighted towards Tesla, taking over 90% in five separate categories.

A 7.3% share of the conversation around fuel efficiency is the main concern, but the model does receive a lot of mentions around range and battery life.

Tesla would want to investigate further to see why this apparent contradiction exists in consumer’s minds.

The Nissan LEAF comes away with one win, in the heavy duty category with 58.3% of the mentions. Worryingly, it also has five categories where it scores less than 2%: the words associated with power and speed, in addition to luxury.

Finally, the BMW i3 takes the win for the most fuel efficient.

It fails to pick up much conversation around the speed categories of MPH, acceleration and speed. For the economically and environmentally minded, this may be the electric car model of choice, and an opportunity for BMW to highlight this message in their marketing.

Sentiment around associated words

Of course, a lot of conversation does not necessarily mean a lot of positive sentiment around the brand. We can look further at the conversations around fuel efficiency to investigate this.

In this case, the large volume of talk around about fuel efficiency around the BMW i3 is overwhelmingly positive.

Diving into the data reveals the majority of these mentions were discussing the car being crowned the most efficient luxury car by both the Environmental Protection Agency and Kelley Blue Book. For the other two cars, the LEAF takes slightly more positive mentions than the Tesla S, but at a lower percentage of overall mentions.

The comparative advantage

Comparative advantages, as seen in the associated words analysis above, may hold the key for one of these brands to pull ahead of the other, even in the face of a smaller market share.

By identifying their strengths and weakness, brands can adapt their strategy to either emphasize unique strengths or mitigate weaknesses associated with the brand.

Similarly, geographical differences can highlight areas to focus efforts on. The map below depicts how much the ratio of BMW/Nissan/Tesla conversation deviates from the national average for each state:

While Tesla dominates nationally, regional areas of strength are highlighted for the other two brands.

Idaho, Iowa, and Virginia are the strongest states for BMW. For Nissan, the states with the biggest positive deviance from the national average are Alaska, Michigan, Mississippi, Oregon, and Tennessee.

The results are in…

So, has social declared a winner for the best electric car?

 While the Tesla Model S is clearly out in front when it comes to volume of mentions, each brand has unique advantages which it can look to drive home with targeted marketing.

Uncovering and emphasizing these natural associations and geographical differences, brands can begin to carve out and own niche segments of the market.

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