Automakers Struggle to Satisfy Consumer Demand for Third-​Row Seats

Automakers are building third-​row seats into more models these days. J.D. Power, in its 2014 Seat Quality and Satisfaction StudySM, notes that more mass market trucks and vans, along with compact SUV/​MPV vehicles, are equipped with third-​row seats. However, in meeting this demand, automakers are not always winning high marks from consumers.

The J.D. Power survey reported that up to 54% of vehicle owners use their third-​row seat on a monthly basis while 41% use those seats on a weekly basis. These vehicle owners report relative comfort in these seats, however, they don’t like the fact that it’s sometimes difficult to get into these seats. That struggle often results in scuff marks in the vehicle. The owners also don’t like the smaller trunk and cargo space  when the seats are in use.

Creating the third-​row seats requires vehicle owners to use a mix of manual and power controls. The most frequent problem owners encounter relate to either the placement of controls or the physical challenge of operating them.

Mike VanNieuwkuyk, executive director of global automotive at J.D. Power, reports that while automakers have largely conquered these problems in bigger vehicles, they face challenges in the growth market, smaller SUVs and MPVs.

About 8.9% of U.S. adults say they are shopping for SUVs this year, according to AudienceSCAN. At least half of these consumers drive their own vehicle to work on a regular basis. Nearly 25% of these audience members have children under age 5, a detail which suggests that these consumers need plenty of space and seating in their vehicles. Over 80% of these buyers agree or strongly agree that they support companies which sponsor a sports team or athlete so auto dealers may want to emphasize that connection when they promote SUVs. In the past 30 days, 54.8% of SUV shoppers have taken action as a result of a TV ad they’ve seen.

AudienceSCAN data is available as part of a subscription to AdMall for Agencies. Media companies can access AudienceSCAN data through the Audience Intelligence Reports in AdMall.

Kathy Crosett
Kathy is the Vice President of Research for SalesFuel. She holds a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Vermont and oversees a staff of researchers, writers and content providers for SalesFuel. Previously, she was co-​owner of several small businesses in the health care services sector.