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Vehicle Owners Willing to Pay for Smartphone Functionality, Not Connectivity

May 01, 2014

WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif. — Among the technologies currently available or coming soon to vehicles, the ones consumers want most are those that allow them to access the entertainment, information and connections they currently get from their smartphone, according to the J.D. Power 2014 U.S. Automotive Emerging Technologies Study released today.

The study measured vehicle owner interest and purchase intent regarding 61 emerging automotive technologies both before and after the market price is known. Before being shown price, the two technologies that garner the most consumer interest are wireless connectivity systems that link electronic devices to a vehicle’s entertainment system and a device/application link, which allows viewing and controlling electronic devices and apps through the factory-installed equipment on the vehicle (83% and 78%, respectively). 

While these features top consumer wish lists, most (60%) feel that a wireless connectivity system should be standard equipment on the next vehicle they purchase, while only 23% of consumers feel the same about device/application link.

Device/application link has the highest consumer interest at market price, with 79% of consumer indicating that they are willing to pay $250 to have this technology. However, with a market price of $300, interest in wireless connectivity systems drops to fourteenth, with 55% of consumers willing to pay to have the technology in their next vehicle.

“Smartphone ownership has increased to 70% in 2014, and consumers want the same connectivity in their vehicle as they are used to getting from their smartphone, computer or tablet,” said Mike VanNieuwkuyk, executive director of global automotive at J.D. Power. “Device/Application link enables the vehicle to replicate the display of a device on the vehicle’s screen while managing the device through the vehicle’s controls, which is why consumers want — and are willing to pay — to have that technology.”

Other technologies owners are most willing to pay to have in their next vehicle are surround-view/rear-vision camera system ($550); active shutter grille vents ($150); wireless charging station ($75); advanced accident notification system ($25/month); and smartphone navigation vehicle interface ($100).

Among the study’s other key findings, nearly one-fourth (24%) of owners express interest in paying to have autonomous driving mode ($3,000) in their next vehicle, up from 21% in 2013 and 20% in 2012. Continued exposure to and experience with such features as fully autonomous parking systems, enhanced adaptive cruise control and traffic jam assist are helping to gradually increase consumer awareness and trust in autonomous driving mode.

Also, stable gas prices, along with improvements in fuel economy from today’s vehicles, are holding consumers back from making major investments in fuel-saving technologies. Consumers view low-price fuel economy features that provide nominal gas mileage improvements as good enough, according to VanNieuwkuyk. Lower cost features that improve fuel economy through vehicle aerodynamics receive higher interest from consumers than more expensive features that target engine fuel efficiencies and energy collection.

Features such as wireless charging stations make sense to consumers given the daily use of connected smartphones and media devices in the vehicle. Near field communication allows use of a smartphone to control various vehicle functions such as unlocking car, remote start and opening trunk/tailgate, and voice-activated personal assistant system, consisting of convenience features that further leverage smartphone functionality, also receive strong interest.

The lowest consumer interest both before and after the market price was revealed was for hand gesture-controlled cockpits. With a market value of $1,000, hand gesture-controlled cockpit uses sensors to detect hand motions to control a variety of functions in the vehicle. Limited consumer awareness and trust in this type of technology, combined with a high price, are likely the cause of low consumer interest, VanNieuwkuyk explained.

The 2014 U.S. Automotive Emerging Technologies Study is based on responses from 15,171 vehicle owners. The study was fielded in February and March 2014 and polled consumers on 61 features and technologies in 13 categories.

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