WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif. — A recent study conducted by J.D. Power and Associates found that a majority of consumers are willing to pay top dollar for premium surround sound systems in their vehicles. Over 80 percent of those who expressed interest in such technology were willing to pay twice the average market price — $1,000 compared to $500 — for a branded system, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2007 U.S. Automotive Emerging Technologies Study.

The study, fielded in July, included over 17,000 U.S. consumers. It was intended to find consumer familiarity, interest and purchase intent for new automotive technologies.

Although there is higher interest in this audio technology in younger consumers, the age gap is small and the technology appeals to consumers of all ages. The largest gaps in interest between younger and older consumers were with features such as rear-seat entertainment systems, in-vehicle Internet and wireless connectivity.

Sixty percent of consumers expressed interest in an audio system capable of playing multiple audio formats. Fifty percent would purchase a USB interface at $100, while 43 percent would purchase an iPod interface at $150.

Safety-related technologies still maintain the highest interest levels from consumers. With price revealed, consumers are most interested in two-stage smart airbags, which inflate in multiple stages with less pressure and help to avoid the injuries associated with traditional one-stage airbags. Backup assist and run-flat tires follow two-stage smart airbags in consumer interest.

With average market prices revealed, some of the most expensive features in the study dropped in consumer interest levels. Rear-seat entertainment systems, priced at $1,500, and collision mitigation systems, $1,750, received the lowest interest levels from consumers. Lane departure warning systems and in-vehicle Internet also received low consumer interest levels once prices were revealed.