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Why you can’t trust EV price comparisons

29 April 2020

You might have heard that comparethemarket.com — you know, the meerkat insurance people — published a “Global EV Index” this February. From the title, you’d be forgiven for assuming this is the definitive ranking of EV prices worldwide.

What they actually did is use the Nissan LEAF as convenient stand-in for EV prices in 49 countries. Official prices were taken from each of Nissan’s national websites, converted to USD and then ranked. Spain was cheapest at €25,900 ($28,620 USD equivalent) and Singapore placed last at S$148,888 ($110,326 USD) — more than 70% more than the next-most-expensive Thailand. Australia came in 17th between Cyprus and Iceland.

So what do we take from this? 17th isn’t so bad. Are calls for an update to stamp duty and the luxury car tax misplaced? Do Australians really have it easy compared to EV buyers in most other countries? 

The roadblocks keeping EVs out of Australia

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Let’s start with the meerkat people’s scale.

The EV Index, revisited

Comparethemarket’s methodology reads as follows:

“All prices are for the latest available model of the Nissan Leaf in each country, according to the official Nissan website in each country as of Feb 2020.

Prices listed are the manufacturer’s suggested retail price and other taxes or levies may be applicable.

Note that some prices include local government incentives (for example, the UK price includes a £3,500 discount), although in some countries, further discounts may be available depending on circumstances.

Prices were converted to pounds, euros and dollars as of Feb 2020.”

Seems simple enough. Surely if we did the same thing today, only two months later, the results won’t have changed too much…

An Australian LEAF today, according to nissan.com.au, comes at a starting price of $53,190. Converting from AUD comes to roughly $24,600 USD, which would actually improve Australia’s ranking to 14th based on comparethemarket’s findings — just behind the UK. Three places better in two months isn’t bad, right?

Other countries aren’t so lucky. 3rd-placed Portugal’s LEAF has undergone a €3200 price bump since February which would put them at 10th; meanwhile last-placed Singapore have seen an immense price drop equivalent to $10,000 USD. Still the most expensive by a mile, though.

So even with a relatively simple scale and only two months of price variations, consistency isn’t easy. Add another EV and it only gets worse.

And again with Tesla

To try and replicate what comparethemarket has done for the LEAF, we’ll need another EV available in multiple markets worldwide with relatively consistent pricing. We chose the Tesla Model 3. Tesla’s direct-to-customer sales approach sidesteps the issue of inconsistent dealership pricing, and their online platform makes it relatively easy to collect and verify the data.

Here are all the countries listed on tesla.com as of the 29th of April:

Estimates taken on 29/4/2020

It’s worth noting that Tesla’s own pricing isn’t 100% real-world accurate for some countries, and neither are the conversions equally representative for every market and every currency. But a few takeaways nonetheless:

Australia’s 25th place is a massive drop from 17th on the LEAF scale — at least it should be. Since Aussie vehicle prices vary by state, you could be paying anywhere from $76,772 in the ACT to $81,215 in WA. Other countries have similar problems of inter-state inconsistency. In the US —  where layers of taxes, incentives, and deductions all factor into different states’ pricing — it’s even more complicated.

Then there’s Spain. The winner on comparethemarket’s LEAF index isn’t even close for the Model 3. Their €49,000 price tag puts them 4th-worst among countries using the Euro.

And let’s not forget that this is all for one variant of the Model 3. Do the same with the Performance or Long Range versions and the order gets thrown out once again. 

For one car, at one variant, in one state at a time, with one currency, you might be able to compare prices somewhat fairly. But accounting for the entire EV market across the world?

Not quite.

Complaining about Australia’s lack of EV incentives and broken tax structure is still fair game.

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