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J.D. Power: Owners Like Fuel-Economy Technologies, In-Vehicle Connectivity

April 25, 2013

WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif. — Vehicle owners have a high interest in technology that drives fuel economy and wireless connectivity, natural language voice activation and a variety of infotainment features for their next vehicle, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2013 U.S. Automotive Emerging Technologies Study.

Released today, the study measured vehicle-owner interest and purchase intent for emerging automotive technologies, both before and after the market price is revealed. Among vehicle owners who say they “definitely would” or “probably would” purchase these features in their next vehicle, a high percentage of respondents indicated they select the following five technologies at both pre-price and at market price:

Market Price Feature Interest

Active shutter grille vents 76%

 

Active shutter grille vents (at $150) 61%

Natural language voice activation 74%

Wireless connectivity system (at $300) 58%

Next generation head-up display (HUD) 74%

Surround-view camera system (at $550) 48%

 

“Vehicle owners are continually aware of rising fuel costs and the need for better fuel economy. 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,” said Mike VanNieuwkuyk, executive director of global automotive at J.D. Power and Associates.

During the past five years, there has been rapid adoption of smartphones. More than 67 percent of vehicle owners have a smartphone, while ownership of traditional mobile phones has plummeted to 28 percent in 2013 from 82 percent in 2007, when J.D. Power began measuring ownership of traditional phones.

Vehicle owners have high expectations for their smartphone to easily integrate with the system in their vehicle. They want to use their smartphone in-vehicle with the same ease and functionality they have become accustomed to in their personal or business life, the study concluded. However, a key challenge is that many owners keep their vehicles for more than five years, and software upgrades for device linking technology lags the introductions 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 percent 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 percent in 2012.

Additionally, vehicle owners in Generation Y (born 1977-1995) are more likely to be interested in device application linking technology at every price level, but the largest interest increases from 2012 are among Early Boomers, those who were born between 1947 and 1953 (increasing 7 percentage points pre-price; 14 percentage points at $250), which indicates high potential to purchase this technology.

Pre-price purchase interest is also higher among men, compared with women, and owners of compact sporty and midsize premium sporty cars, compared with owners in all other vehicle segments.

Fully autonomous driving is still a relatively new concept. While market price interest rises slightly (21 percent in 2013 vs. 20 percent in 2012), overall acceptance has room to grow. In recent years, various semi-autonomous driving modes have been implemented in vehicles, particularly those in premium segments. There is greater interest in semi-autonomous modes such as emergency braking, steering (40 percent) and automatic park assist (32 percent) than in a fully autonomous mode.

“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.”

Men show high interest at market price for low-speed collision avoidance (58 percent), emergency braking and steering (42 percent) and fully autonomous driving (23 percent). Younger owners are more interested in emerging driving technologies, with Generation X (born 1965-1976) having the highest market price interest in low-speed collision avoidance (59 percent) and Generation Y having the highest market price interest for emergency braking and steering (44 percent).

Research conducted by J.D. Power’s Consumer Insight and Strategy Group to track social media activity regarding automotive energy, device/application linking and autonomous driving technology also finds:

• Consumers believe that in-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.

• 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.

• Interest in fully or semi-autonomous driving features primarily originates from wanting 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.

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, and looked at 22 primary technologies.

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