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2013 U.S. Automotive Emerging Technologies Study Results

2013 U.S. Automotive Emerging Technologies Study Results

By Jeff Youngs, April 26, 2013
Emerging automotive technologies--especially those that improve communications capabilities or save fuel--interest vehicle owners. According to the recently released J.D. Power and Associates 2013 U.S. Automotive Emerging Technologies Study,SM among vehicle owners who say they "definitely would" or "probably would" purchase specific technologies on their next vehicle, the highest percentage select device application link, fuel economy indicator, and active shutter grille vents.

The study measures vehicle owner interest and purchase intent for emerging automotive technologies, both before and after the market price is revealed. While the level of interest among vehicle owners drops when the market price of the feature is revealed, fuel economy indicator and active grille vents have among the lowest decreases in interest. For example, 76% of vehicle owners say they "definitely would" or "probably would" buy an active grille vent before knowing the price. Interest in this feature decreases to 61% when the market price ($150) is revealed.

"Vehicle owners are continually aware of rising fuel costs and the need for better fuel economy," said Mike VanNieuwkuyk, executive director of global automotive at J.D. Power and Associates. "As they have come to understand the benefits of new automotive technology, they are increasingly interested in those that allow them to manage their fuel consumption with greater efficiency and help better manage their cost at the pump."

During the past 5 years, there has been rapid adoption of smartphones. More than 67% of owners surveyed have a smartphone, while ownership of traditional mobile phones has plummeted to 28% in 2013 from 82% in 2007, when J.D. Power began measuring ownership of traditional mobile phones. Vehicle owners expect their smartphones to easily integrate with the system in their vehicle so they can use the device in-vehicle with the same ease and functionality they've become accustomed to outside of their vehicle. However, many owners keep their vehicles for five or more years, and the potential to upgrade in-vehicle technology doesn't keep pace with the introduction of new smartphones.

"Automakers have an important opportunity to gain a competitive advantage by working side by side with smartphone and application developers to provide a seamless smartphone experience for in-vehicle control of GPS/mapping, music, weather, search tools, travel and more," said VanNieuwkuyk. "These connections to smartphone applications need to be robust, affordable and simple to access and use in a vehicle environment."

In the 2013 study, 82% of vehicle owners with smartphones cite pre-purchase interest in an in-vehicle device/application link that would connect their smartphone to their vehicle's infotainment system, compared with 78% in 2012. The physical proximity of one's smartphone continues to be a concern, as vehicle owners struggle with the limitations of hands-free technology, generating interest in natural language voice activation systems.

According to the study, vehicle owners born between 1977 and 1995 are more likely to be interested in device application linking technology at every price level, but the largest increases in interest from 2012 are among those born between 1947 and 1953. Pre-price purchase interest is also higher among men, compared with women, and among owners of compact sporty and midsize premium sporty cars, compared with owners in all other vehicle segments.

Meanwhile, vehicle owners still appear to be wary of "autonomous driving," as interest in semi-autonomous features, such as emergency braking and steering and automatic park assist, remain fairly low. However, interest in those features has risen, compared with the 2012 study.

"Fully autonomous driving is slowly working its way into the mindset of vehicle owners by way of those who utilize semi-autonomous driving features with comfort and confidence," said VanNieuwkuyk. "While it will take more time for vehicle owners to embrace fully autonomous driving, the gateway for acceptance is underway given relatively strong interest in many semi-autonomous features."

Research conducted by J.D. Power's Consumer Insight and Strategy Group1 to track social media activity regarding automotive energy, device/application linking and autonomous driving technology finds that consumers believe that vehicle infotainment systems are inferior to their smartphones and tablets and want more mobile apps and control of software updates to integrate with their vehicle. The group also finds that energy technology mentions on social media have shown a notable increase within the past year, as consumers have placed a heightened emphasis on saving fuel. However, fuel economy-conscious vehicle owners seem to struggle with the unfamiliarity of stop/start technology and many social media mentions focus on how to turn this feature off altogether. Analysis from the group also suggests that interest in fully or semi-autonomous driving features primarily originates from consumers' desire to have the latest technology, with the safety benefit being an added bonus. However, consumers still want the responsibility of driving their own vehicle until these technologies fully gain consumer confidence and trust.

Based on the findings of the study, J.D. Power and Associates offers the following consumer tips:

  • When purchasing a new vehicle, don't pay for technology you don't need. Before you add a high-tech option, ask yourself, "Will I use it enough to justify the cost?"
  • Weigh the benefits of paying for fuel-saving technology by calculating your fuel use, compared with how much fuel an optional device might save. Will the extra expense save you money in the long run?
  • Ask your dealer to let you road-test new technological features to make sure they'll be useful to you in a variety of situations.

The 2013 U.S. Automotive Emerging Technologies Study is based on responses from more than 16,758 vehicle owners. The study was fielded in March 2013. The study includes 22 primary technologies, each with related secondary technologies such as analyses on infotainment/connectivity safety- and energy-related emerging features; a key emerging technologies packaging exercise; an emerging technologies adoption calculator; and an expanded psychographic and lifestyle-driven analysis.

1Device/Application link is only asked of smartphone owners

Additional Research:

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