Who Will Buy Chinese Electric Cars in Kuwait?

Andri Ottesen
Assistant Professor
Dr. Andri Ottesen worked as Director of Operation for the synthetic fuel company Carbon Recycling International. Currently, he is Assistant Professor in the field of Entrepreneurship and Innovation for Australian University. He is furthermore the Principle Investigator on a Project that is managed by the Middle East Center of LSE (MEC) called. “Breaking the Internal Combustion Engine Reign: A Mixed-Methods Study of Attitudes Towards Using and Purchasing Electric Vehicles in Kuwait.”

Young educated women will be the early majority for buying mostly Chinese-made electric vehicles in Kuwait over the next 5 to 10 years.

Kuwait has one of the lowest Electric Vehicle (EV) adoption rates in the world, with approximately 400 EVs, or significantly less than 1% of passenger vehicles. This low adoption rate is due to numerous factors, but ultra-low petroleum prices and a dearth of charging infrastructure are two of the most significant. According to our research, Kuwait has not yet "Crossed the Chasm," a term used when disruptive innovations penetrate the mainstream market and ultimately dominate it. Today's market is dominated by Early Adaptors whose purchasing decisions precede those of the majority of consumers.

The Early Adaptors can be divided into three distinct categories. The first group consists of torque and luxury enthusiasts, who are primarily wealthy 60-plus-year-old males who purchase full-featured sport versions of EVs as their third or fourth vehicle (Porsche Taycan, Tesla S, Jaguar I-Pace, and BMW I3S). The second group consists of male administrators and senior specialists over the age of 50 who purchase a second luxury EV (Audi e-tron, Mercedes EQS, Tesla X, and Volvo XC40). The third group is dominated by women between the ages of 30 and 40 who are typically junior or middle-level managers, married with young children, and own another ICE vehicle (Mercedes EQC, Renault Twizy, Smart, Volkswagen 1D.4, Chevrolet Bolt, Hyundai Ioniq 5, Mazda MX-30, and Polestar 2). This group is environmentally conscious and favors the silent engine and low maintenance requirements.

The majority of Tesla model Y and model 3 drivers in our survey were male, as women do not typically purchase cars without a dealership in Kuwait. We concluded that one of these groups was likely to become the early majority/pragmatist segment if certain conditions are met, such as the implementation of fast-charging stations and lifetime battery warranties. To determine which group would prevail and become the early majority in 2020s Kuwaiti society, we analyzed the current demographic shifts. We could not help but notice three major parallels to the 1960s and 1970s in the United States. The first demographic transition is the reduction of the birth rate to two offspring per woman. The second transition is the increase in the number of women graduating from university – now approximately two-thirds of university graduates are women, indicating the situation during 1960–1980 in the US is comparable to 2000–2023 in Kuwait. The third democratic transition is the rising number of women in the workforce, along with delayed childbearing and marriages in which women are financially independent. During the 1960s through the 1970s, Japanese automakers were able to penetrate the American market by promising environmentally responsible and low-maintenance vehicles with advanced safety features and elegant interiors that catered to women's preferences.

Based on our findings, we anticipate that Chinese EV manufacturers will employ the same strategy to penetrate the Middle Eastern market. As of the first quarter of this year, the electric Tesla Y has surpassed the Toyota Corolla as the most popular car model on the globe. Notable is that nearly two thirds of Tesla Y models sold today are manufactured in China, and the most expensive component of Teslas produced in Germany, the battery, is made in China. China is utilizing the transition towards EV vehicles to gain a foothold in the global auto market, as Tesla, BYD, and Nio, along with MG and Polestar, are the three most sold EVs in the world. Young educated women will continue to be attracted to the promise of eco-friendly, zero-emission vehicles with noiseless, maintenance-free engines.

Men, on the other hand, will continue to purchase EVs due to their gearless power train, which no ICE vehicle can compete with in speed acceleration, such as the Tesla S and Porsche Taycan, which can easily beat million-dollar super cars in a race to 100 kilometers per hour in less than two seconds.