Auto Electronics

J.D. Power releases emerging technology study

Safety-related automotive technology traditionally ranks high in J.D. Power and Associates U.S. Automotive Emerging Technology Study, but safety features began to slip last year and their slide relative to non-safety features accelerated in the 2008 study, according to Mike Marshall, the firm’s director of automotive emerging technologies.

J.D. Power surveyed more than 19,000 U.S. consumers in April to gauge their level of interest in 20 emerging automotive technologies before and after specifying average market prices.

Premium sound and heated/cooled front seats proved more popular than collision mitigation, enhanced adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning systems. Premium sound and heated/cooled seats ranked sixth and seventh before their respective $500 and $700 prices were revealed. They slipped to eighth and twelfth place respectively after their prices were known. Collision mitigation, with an average price of $1,500, dropped from #11 to #17; enhanced adaptive cruise control, priced at $800, held steady in thirteenth place, and lane departure warning, at $500, stepped up from #18 to #14.

Satellite and HD radio both gained consumer interest when their prices ($12.95 per-month and $200 respectively) were known. Satellite radio climbed from #14 to #7, while HD jumped from #15 to #6.

Prior to revealing the average market price, consumers said they are either “definitely” or “probably” interested in features as follows:
Blind spot detection 76%, backup assist 74%, navigation system 73%, active cornering headlight system 73%, hybrid-electric capability 72%, premium surround sound 67%, heated/cooled front seats 67%, central control unit 67%, personal assistance safety devices 65%, portable navigation device 65%, collision mitigation system 62%, remote vehicle diagnostics 61%, enhanced adaptive cruise control 60%, satellite radio 58%, HD radio 57%, wireless connectivity system 57%, in-vehicle Internet 54%, lane departure warning system 46%, rear-seat entertainment system 43%, and clean diesel engine 37%.

The rank order after prices were known was backup assist; active cornering headlight system; wireless connectivity system; blind spot detection; remote vehicle diagnostics; HD radio; satellite radio; a three-way tie among central control unit, premium surround sound and hybrid electric capability; personal assistance safety services; heated/cooled front seats; enhanced adaptive cruise control; a tie among portable navigation device, lane departure warning system, and clean diesel engine; collision mitigation system; navigation system; in-vehicle Internet, and rear-seat entertainment.

Mike Marshall, the firm’s director of automotive emerging technologies, noted that hybrid-electric powertrain technology in vehicles garners high interest among consumers both before and after the average market price ($5,000) is revealed. “High consumer interest in hybrid-electric powertrain technology may be reflective of not only rising gas prices but also a heightened effort among consumers to be more environmentally conscious,” said Marshall.

“Clean diesel technology, however, garners relatively low interest in comparison. One explanation for this may derive from a lack of education with the technology. Many consumers cannot differentiate between clean diesel and traditional diesel fuel—which in the past had a negative connotation with unpleasant vehicle emissions. As consumers become more educated in the benefits of clean diesel through increased product offers launching later this year, interest in the technology may increase.”

“Wireless connectivity, in particular, makes a considerable jump in the rankings after the average price point of $200 is revealed,” Marshall added. “Consumer interest is likely heightened by the fact that more states may prohibit the use of cell phones while driving. Wireless connectivity will potentially become a necessity rather than a luxury as time goes on.”

Marshall said the rapid acceleration of interest in non-safety features was the biggest surprise in this year’s survey. He attributed relatively low consumer interest in clean diesel technology to lack of awareness and latent misconceptions about diesel technology currently available. He suggested that OEMs planning to launch diesel vehicles would do well to educate potential buyers.

“OEMs also need to start looking at vehicle interiors and infotainment as an extension of a consumer’s lifestyle,” he said. “They need to ask themselves what consumers do – how they are informed and entertained, and how they communicate – and then enable consumers to do those same things when they are in their vehicles while maintaining a safe environment.

“The automotive industry is facing incredible challenges in this regard,” Marshall continued, “and if anything, those challenges are going to get worse due to the speed at which consumer technology is changing. Developers have to move away from a focus on specific devices and look at the functions – information, entertainment and communication – and how to accommodate them.”

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