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Autotrader Study: Consumers Placing Increasing Importance On In-Car Technologies

February 2, 2016 0 Comments


In September 2015, Autotrader surveyed a panel of 1,012 vehicle owners in an effort to better understand their preferences and concerns when it comes to the evolving landscape of in-vehicle technology.

When analyzing the initial findings from the study, it becomes clear in-car technology has become increasingly important to consumers. Car buyers are willing to wait longer to get the specific features they are interested in using, and although many continue to voice concerns about self-driving vehicles, a high percentage of consumers are likely to consider purchasing a car that includes semi-autonomous functionality.

Perception of Self-Driving Vehicles

The majority of survey respondents indicated they still believe that self-driving cars are a dangerous concept, although this number has decreased somewhat from 65 percent in 2015 to 60 percent in 2016. Interestingly, the overall trust of the safety of this technology appears to remain low, with 65 percent of those surveyed saying they would continue to watch the road even though they wouldn’t actually be driving, and only 11 percent indicating they would use the time to work. Concerns about the safety consequences of equipment or system failures in a self-driving vehicle also remains high, at 66 percent of respondents. Additionally, 3 out of 20 consumers who were surveyed say they are not interested in hands-free driving because it is not a familiar concept.

Rachelle Petusky, a research analyst for Autotrader, offered some valuable insights into the findings from the study. She explained that although a large percentage of respondents still consider autonomous vehicles to be dangerous, this number should continue to decrease as consumers become more knowledgeable and increasingly utilize the growing number of semi-autonomous features that are already available, such as parking assistance, collision avoidance and automatic braking.

Growing Impact Of In-Car Technologies

The initial survey data makes it clear that in-car technologies are becoming increasingly important to consumers when making their purchasing decisions. It’s surprising to see that 51 percent of participants said they would wait 6-18 months in order to get all of the technology features that they desire. This could have a noticeable impact on vehicle turn rate, as consumers are becoming less likely to buy a car that doesn’t have all of the technology that is important to them. This could result in making it significantly more difficult to sell cars that don’t include the latest technologies, as well as altering how frequently manufacturers push new inventory out to their dealerships. Additionally, dealers may find themselves increasingly competing with dealerships that have the same car but with more tech features included.

Another very interesting change in consumer preference is that 77 percent of respondents feel that it’s more important to purchase a car that has all of the technology they want as opposed to their preferred color. In a related statistic, the data indicates 65 percent of respondents would be willing to switch brands to get the technology features that they want. Clearly, the relative importance of tech in cars is growing dramatically, which marks a significant shift for dealers to note in terms of what matters most to today’s consumers.

Smooth Integration Of Technologies

Certainly, there are a large variety of technology systems that are currently available in cars, including Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and manufacturers that are using their own products. For consumers, it appears there is a great importance in having the ability to seamlessly connect in-car technology with the devices that they already use, with 57 percent of respondents indicating they would prefer auto manufacturers to focus on better integrating smartphones into a generic system that would be available in all vehicles. Petusky believes that whether the system is the OEM’s own technology or a third-party they partner with, such as Apple or Android, the greatest consumer satisfaction comes from a smooth integration. She referred to the fact that the Volvo XC90 Sensus system won the Kelley Blue Book 2016 Best Auto Tech Award.

“The Volvo XC90 just won that,” explained Petusky. “Because of the fact that the integration was so smooth. They actually tested over 300 vehicles to award that award, and they found that a lot of the vehicles that they were testing, it didn’t sync as well with the phones as it promised. Or it was a little clunky and difficult. And if you’re talking about experts going in and reviewing vehicles, the average person is going to have an even harder time syncing it up.”

So, the ease of syncing appears to be what the majority of consumers are most concerned about, regardless of whether that is coming from the OEM or from a tech company. “They just want it done right,” said Petusky.

The Importance Of Knowledgeable Employees

One of the key takeaways from the study for dealers and dealership sales professionals to note is that the consumer shift to considering in-vehicle technology is increasingly important. It is essential to provide highly knowledgeable assistance both on the sales floor and during test drives. Petusky explained dealerships should now be willing to take extra time during test drives to teach consumers how the technology works. Although a test drive used to be just about the performance of a car, there has been a dramatic shift in recent times, and dealers can take this information and use it to their advantage to ensure a positive customer experience. Petusky explained that 57 percent of consumers now expect they should be spending a minimum of 30 minutes in a vehicle to learn about its technology features.

“I think that’s a huge paradigm shift for the way the dealers think about the test drive,” said Petusky.

She explained that customers want to gain more knowledge from this experience before making their decision, which creates a massive opportunity for dealerships to take their past customer service practices and refine them to most effectively assist consumers with understanding the greatly increased complexities of the technology that exists in current and future cars.

“Do you understand how to sync your phone to the dash?” said Petusky. “Do you know what it means when this light turns on? Do you know how to turn off the sounds alert if you don’t want the lane departure notice to be beeping at you every time? And that’s really next level service at the dealership. It’s being able to help consumers learn the technology.”

Some dealerships are making massive efforts to meet the demands of today’s car buyers by providing them with a whole new level of assistance with the latest in-car technologies. It’s essential for dealerships to understand the shift in what is most important to consumers to allow them to improve their sales practices and delivery processes by providing specialists that can explain the increasingly robust tech features that exist. With the expectation for in-car technology interest to grow exponentially in the coming period, along with the potential for fully self-driving vehicles to arrive in showrooms in the future, the bar for dealerships is definitely rising. Consumer preferences are rapidly changing, and now is the time for sales people and managers to take note of this shift to ensure that they are providing the best possible car buying experience to their customers.

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