Editor's note: Tim Grainey is founder and managing member of Strategic Research Initiatives. Renah Wolzinger is a professor at Golden West College.  

Two important trends within the automotive industry – the growth of electric vehicles (EVs) and the development of autonomous vehicles (AVs) – are spurring extraordinary changes in technological advances, manufacturing practices and even dealership selling and servicing approaches. In this article we examine how market researchers need to adapt their research perspectives to provide salient and cogent information to EV and AV manufacturers, their suppliers and stakeholders in the coming years.

Electric vehicle production and technological advances are now a top priority of manufacturers and suppliers throughout the automotive industry, reacting to growing concerns about climate and other environmental changes. However, EVs are currently a niche market in the U.S., with new EV sales at 2% of total new vehicle sales in 2020. That share is expected to rise to 7% of the market (6 million vehicles in 2025) and 18%-20% market share (19 million cars) in 2030. Tesla currently accounts for the vast majority of those sales. Consulting Firm LMC Automotive projects that battery-electric sales could hit 4 million vehicles in 2030 or 25% of the market.1 IHS Market projects 25%-30% of U.S. new vehicle sales will be battery-electric or zero-emission by 2030 and 45-50% by 2035.2

California Governor Gavin Newsom’s executive order in late 2020 that new vehicle sales with gasoline engines will be banned in the state from 2035 has added to the urgency for the transition to EVs within the industry. California alone is expected to have 4 million EVs by 2030.3

In April 2021, President Joe Biden proposed a $174 billion investment into the electric vehicle market as part of his $2 trillion infrastructure plan to help America recover from the pandemic. The American Jobs Pl...