Auto shoppers are not brand loyal when it comes to in-vehicle technology. Technology can, in fact, have the opposite effect: consumers are willing to switch brands if they prefer a rival's platform for a given technology versus the one in their current brand.
In a new study by online vehicle market AutoTrader.com, the 2014 In-Vehicle Technology Shopper Influence Study, 56% of U.S. vehicle owners said they would be willing to switch brands to get the tech features they want.
The inaugural study, conducted by Harris Poll for AutoTrader, involved an October survey of 1,033 U.S. vehicle owners on how vehicle technology impacts their vehicle purchase decisions. Infotainment bells and whistles play second fiddle to safety. Eighty-four percent of consumers that Harris polled said technology around the latter is key, with back-up cameras and sensors the top draw versus infotainment. While 65% of those polled believe autonomous cars are a peril, 61% said they are likely to consider a model with autonomous safety features like park assist and collision avoidance on their next purchase. Sixty-nine percent of owners said they would sacrifice the right car color for the right in-car technology.
Ease of use beats variety, per the study: nearly half of those polled said they would drop a car -- even if they liked it -- if they felt the technology was too hard to use. More than three-quarters of owners would prefer to have one in-vehicle tech feature that's easy to use than a complicated system loaded with features and apps. Almost half said one shouldn't have to spend more than 15 minutes figuring out how to use all the geegaws in a car. That said, 38% of vehicle owners said they would delay their next purchase by six months or more to get all of the in-car tech features they want.
A big slice of the survey pie isn't happy at all with how technology is explained and demonstrated at retail. Forty percent said they should be able to spend more time during a test drive to focus on the technology and safety features. Thirty percent said they'd like to be able to take the car home overnight to test the features.
"The fact that consumers are in need of this education combined with how much technology is influencing the purchase decision is a huge opportunity for dealers," Krebs said, adding that most consumers feel slighted for time on technology during the test-drive process. "Salespeople who can actively show shoppers how easy these features are to use, and demonstrate the benefits, will build a trusted relationship with the shopper to help seal the deal."
Nicole Yelland, an AutoTrader.com spokesperson, says the company did a second survey to get sense of which three brands consumers think offer the best in-car technology. There was no clear answer. "People said they didn't know. So automakers need to do a better job educating shoppers about technology, talking about it more."