When it comes to consumer purchase behavior, there’s no greater motivator than price—especially for large, infrequent investments like automobiles. This is, and will likely be the case for years to come, but recent research indicates that price, along with a few other traditionally desired characteristics, are on the decline.
Notably, the Nielsen 2016 AutoTECHCAST report found that price, the most important characteristic among consumers shopping for their next vehicle, dropped in importance by 2% over the past year. But it wasn’t alone. Other conventional vehicle traits like fuel economy and reliability fell in importance as well, while safety and relative intangibles like automaker reputation and appearance have gained ground.
While safety has moved up the most in priority over the past three years, consumer interest in features and advanced technology increased the most over the past 12 months, continuing a trend that’s been underway over the past three years. With today’s vehicles being on relatively equal footing for price, reliability and fuel efficiency, it’s new technologies that offer drivers and passengers a more dynamic and personalized experience, which OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) are leveraging to attract consumers to their lineups.
At the same time, advancements in vehicle entertainment, connectivity and utility are simultaneously promoting interest in more and better safety features. In light of concerns over driver attention and distraction, Americans are most interested in technology that provides enhanced safety—but not just in the traditional sense of providing protection in the event of an accident. While protection features are high among consumer expectations, safety technologies that help prevent accidents have grown in importance among automotive owners. Today, protection is required but prevention is desired. As such, these technologies are at the top of the list of what consumers are willing to pay for in their next vehicle.
In an environment of interactive, dynamic and personalized in-vehicle options, automotive OEMs are responding to the demand for safer, accident prevention measures with the introduction of enhanced driver assistance features. These features provide alerts and—in the event the driver is unable to react appropriately or quick enough—take control of the vehicle to help prevent an accident. To that end, when consumers in the 2016 AutoTECHCAST study were asked if OEMs are “doing what is needed to keep vehicles safe from too many distractions,” only slightly more than half (53%) strongly or somewhat agreed with this statement. This is a clear indication that the automotive industry still has much ground to cover in making consumers feel safe when operating their vehicles.
Overall consumer sentiment about new technology is on the rise, as 40% of survey respondents used the word “excited” to describe how they feel about advanced auto technology. This represents a window of real opportunity for vehicle manufacturers—but they need to focus on what consumers are truly interested in. They also need to stay agile enough in their advancements so they can pivot as trends and consumer desires shift.
For additional insights, download Nielsen’s 2016 AutoTECHCAST Report Lite report.