Harris Poll AutoTECHCAST: In-Car Technology Arms Race Leaves More Than Four in Ten Consumers Feeling Automakers Offer Too Much

NEW YORK, N.Y. – The automotive industry is engaged in an infotainment arms race. “Automakers believe they’re under intense pressure to launch new features and connected services to remain competitive,” says Larry Shannon-Missal, Managing Editor of The Harris Poll.

However, findings suggest that simply flooding the marketplace with features may do little to accelerate consumer adoption. Educating consumers about the value of existing features and cultivating usage may have a more positive effect on both selling cars and increasing customer loyalty.

The recently released 2015 Harris Poll AutoTECHCASTSM, an annual study of consumer awareness and adoption of advanced and emerging automotive technologies, continuously monitors and tracks adoption. The AutoTECHCAST survey was conducted during Q2 2015 among over 14,000 U.S. recent new car buyers, and covers approximately 60 technologies.

Educate, Educate, Educate

Because automakers measure car design success by the number of features offered, a checklist approach to infotainment development has prevailed. Survey results suggest redefining success with a focus on familiarity, usage, satisfaction and loyalty between users and brands may better serve the industry.

Only 16 out of 60 technologies evaluated obtain “good” familiarity scores (as measured by AutoTECHCAST’s 3-tier performance scale based on over 10 years of data). Back-up cameras (61%), satellite radio (51%), and back-up warning systems (42%) are the technologies with the highest familiarity scores. Technologies such as automatic window tinting (7%), augmented reality dashboard (7%), and DMC-Driver mode control (6%) record the lowest familiarity scores in the study.

“The risk of low familiarity is that consumers fail to recognize the value of features, fail to associate the value with specific brands, and may lead to negative perceptions about the brand and/or the industry,” says Shannon-Missal. Low familiarity with individual components may be a result of consumers feeling inundated with technology in their new car purchases, with over four in ten recent car buyers (42%) believing carmakers add too much technology to their vehicles.

Over four in ten (44%) say they’ve never used one or more of the major infotainment solutions, and low users (i.e., those who have never used or use only once in a while) are significantly less likely to be familiar with infotainment features. Usage is one of the most important success factors for any technology, and the study finds that some of the key opportunities to overcome low usage can include making features easier to use and educating consumers (i.e., avoiding confusion).  

What Consumers Want

The AutoTECHCAST study finds consumers most interested in advanced technologies that prevent accidents and make them feel safer. Comparable findings can be seen in The Nielsen Connected Life Report, a bi-annual study of consumer needs, preferences, attitudes, and behaviors around new and emerging technologies related to connected cars, homes, and wearables.

According to The Connected Life Report, more than six in ten (64%) Connected Car owners say safety alerts are very important.  While seven in ten (70%) intenders want a connected car because it makes them feel safe.

However, the AutoTECHCAST survey suggests that while the availability of certain features as standard (e.g. navigation) can have a significant effect on purchase decisions, very few consumers are willing to spend extra for these products or services.

Eleven technologies show strong momentum (growth in interest) in the study, with wireless mobile device charging in the lead. Other options with above-average momentum and interest worth watching include vehicle-internet connectivity, lane-keep assist, hybrid electric engines, and emergency-front-collision-avoidance systems.

Overall, a handful of technologies separate themselves in this year’s survey. On the positive side, back-up cameras, warning systems and blind spot warning systems score well as technologies showing positive momentum (improvement over the last year), prioritization (picked most when asked what they prefer in comparison to other techs), bundling options of choice (included in most popular combinations of tech features) and most used. On the other end of the spectrum, real-time navigation, personal assistance services and text-to-speech/speech-to-text options are least used, show declining momentum and are near or at the bottom for many study metrics.

When considered in isolation, satisfaction with infotainment features appears relatively strong. However, when placed in context with other vehicle technologies, almost all (14 out of 17) of the infotainment features rank in the bottom half of the satisfaction ratings.

“The explosion of simple smartphone capabilities related to navigation, music, and other areas may be leading to some drops in satisfaction within the automotive market, and may increasingly lead to a drop in the usage of infotainment systems,” says Shannon-Missal. Many of the poorest performing options in the satisfaction area were functions that directly compete with smartphone features, such as built-in apps and voice-activated controls.

Encouraging News

Technology/features are among the top 5 most important factors in recent car purchasers’ decisions (after price, fuel economy, reliability/dependability and value for the money), with 40 percent acknowledging it played a role. Women, parents, those with household incomes under $50k, and Millennials all appear to place more importance on technology over the past few years.

The Connected Life Report shows that technologies such as safety alerts, entertainment connectivity and internet-enabled navigation are very important in the Connected Car decision making process. Groups with the highest overall interest for technologies in the study include Millennials, high-frequency drivers, and those planning to buy sports or luxury cars or luxury SUVs. Baby boomers have the lowest overall interest.

The AutoTECHCAST survey results suggest that satisfaction with technology features can drive customer loyalty. Satisfied infotainment users are 5.7% more likely than non-satisfied users to remain loyal to their current brand. Additionally, those who report being satisfied with how the technology works in their vehicle are 3 times more likely to purchase from the same manufacturer, compared to those who are dissatisfied (68% vs. 23%).

Concerning where to place bets on in-car technologies, while adding features can increase purchase desirability, getting the user experience right can have a bigger impact on the bottom line by helping keep customers loyal.


Harris Poll AutoTECHCASTSM Methodology

The Harris Poll AutoTECHCASTSM study provides the automotive industry with in-depth U.S. consumer research on approximately 60 advanced automotive technologies covering Entertainment, Exterior & Interior Comfort and Convenience, Intelligent Sensing, Lighting, Powertrain and Alternative Fuels, Safety, and Telematics. The 2015 Harris Poll AutoTECHCASTSM study was conducted online within the United States between April 3, 2015 – April 22, 2015 among 14,280 U.S. adults ages 18 and over and who own or lease a vehicle model year 2010 or newer, have a valid driver’s license, intend to buy or lease a new vehicle at any point in the future, and anticipate being at least 50 percent involved in the decision to buy or lease their next household vehicle. Results were weighted as needed for age, gender, education, region and income and to properly represent U.S. vehicle segment owners. Propensity score weighting also was used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online

Connected Life Methodology

Connected Life provides manufacturers, developers, carriers, content providers and advertisers with an understanding of consumer needs, preferences, attitudes, and behaviors around new and emerging technologies related to connected cars, homes, and wearables. The Connected Life study is conducted online twice per year using a sample of 5,000 adults age 18+ who either currently use or are interested in at least one of the three connected life technologies: connected home, car and/or wearable technology. Data cited in the release comes from the May 2015 wave of the study.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

Harris Poll AutoTECHCASTSM study results disclosed in this release may not be used for advertising, marketing or promotional purposes without the prior written consent of Harris Poll.

About The Harris Poll®

Over the last 5 decades, Harris Polls have become media staples.  With comprehensive experience and precise technique in public opinion polling, along with a proven track record of uncovering consumers’ motivations and behaviors, The Harris Poll has gained strong brand recognition around the world. The Harris Poll offers a diverse portfolio of proprietary client solutions to transform relevant insights into actionable foresight for a wide range of industries including health care, technology, public affairs, energy, telecommunications, financial services, insurance, media, retail, restaurant, and consumer packaged goods. Contact us for more information.