In-​Car Technology Influences Luxury Auto Purchases

These days, consumers are looking for more than comfort and a great ride in their new autos. More vehicle shoppers are weighing the pros and cons of in-​car technology. Many prospects are intrigued by new features that help to prevent accidents but they’re also worried about how complicated it is to use these features.

AutoTrader​.com recently released the findings of the 2014 In-​Vehicle Technology Shopper Influence Study — conducted online on its behalf by Harris Poll among 1,033 U.S. vehicle owners between October 15th and 20th, 2014, which provides insight into how vehicle technology impacts consumer vehicle purchase decisions. In its first year, this study sheds light on what vehicle owners are willing to sacrifice to get the features they want, the kinds of technologies they're putting at the top of their shopping lists and what manufacturers can do to ensure that shoppers drive off the lot with their vehicle.

"We live in a world now where nailing the basics – great ride and handling, reliability, compelling design – aren't enough to compensate for a lack of the latest safety and infotainment features," said Michelle Krebs, AutoTrader​.com senior analyst. "The brands who can give consumers the technologies they want in a package that's cost effective and easy-​to-​use will be winners on sales day."

When it comes to technology, manufacturers can't count on brand loyalty to keep a shopper in their showroom, with 56 percent of U.S. vehicle owners saying they would be willing to switch brands to get the features they want. The vast majority of vehicle owners prioritize safety features over infotainment (84 percent), with things like blind spot detection and back-​up cameras/​sensors rising to the top of the list. And while vehicle owners remain leery of fully autonomous vehicles (65 percent of vehicle owners think self-​driving cars are a dangerous idea), six in ten (61 percent) are likely to consider a model with autonomous safety features like park assist and collision avoidance on their next purchase.

However – just having the right combination of features isn't enough to guarantee the sale. The study also revealed that ease-​of-​use is a key deciding factor for car shoppers, with 48 percent saying they would walk away from a vehicle they liked if the technology was perceived to be too difficult to use. Nearly half of vehicle owners (48 percent) think it should take less than 15 minutes to figure out how to use all of the technology features in a new vehicle. Nearly 4 in 10 (38 percent) vehicle owners would like more time in the vehicle during a test drive to get an education on a vehicle's technology and safety features, and nearly three in ten would like to take the vehicle home overnight to test the features out on their own.

"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. "Given 60 percent of consumers say they don't have enough time during the test drive process to fully evaluate car technology features, 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."

Other notable findings from the study include:

  • More than three-​quarters of owners would prefer to have one in-​vehicle tech feature that's easy to use instead of a difficult-​to-​understand system that has all the features they want.
  • 38 percent of vehicle owners would delay their next purchase by 6 months or more to get all of the in-​car tech features they want.
  • 69% of vehicle owners would rather a vehicle have the technology features they want as opposed to being the color they want.

Luxury car shoppers may be particularly interested in paying for new vehicle technology. AudienceSCAN research suggests that 5% of U.S. adults will be shopping for luxury vehicles in the next year. Men (63%) are more likely than women (37%) to be willing to pony up for a luxury vehicle. In addition, nearly 30% of this audience has household income of over $100,000. 60% of luxury car shoppers have driven their own vehicle to work in the past month which is 50% higher than average. In the next year, 26% of these consumers will pay for day spa services and 40% will order up a body massage. These numbers are both much higher than average.

Marketers may want to reach this audience with out-​of-​home marketing like billboards. About 38% of these folks have taken action as a result of seeing these types of messages, which is 169% higher than average.

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.