Do Consumers Care if Cars are Connected?

Although the list of new technology in cars seems never ending, a new study indicates that few drivers actually use them.

by Jerry Hirsch, Los Angeles Times / August 26, 2015

(TNS) -- Drivers are shunning much of the technology automakers are stuffing in cars.

It amounts to a waste of billions of dollars in investment that’s ultimately paid for by consumers, according to automotive research firm J.D. Power.

In its 2015 Driver Interactive Vehicle Experience Report – a study of how new car owners use their vehicles within the first 90 days after a purchase – J.D. power found that at least 20 percent never used 16 of the 33 technology features measured.

For example, 43 percent ignored the voice link to a human concierge for directions or restaurant reservations. Another 38 percent never took advantage of a car’s ability to use a wireless link to create an Internet hot spot while 35 percent never tried the automatic parking system.

A third didn’t use a heads-up display which projects speed and other information onto the windshield, and 32 percent ignored apps embedded in the infotainment system such as Yelp or Pandora.

More than half expressed reluctance to use a vehicle’s voice texting and voice recognition systems.

“In many cases, owners simply prefer to use their smartphone or tablet because it meets their needs; they’re familiar with the device and it’s accurate,” said Kristin Kolodge, executive director of driver interaction research at J.D. Power. “In-vehicle connectivity technology that’s not used results in millions of dollars of lost value for both consumers and the manufacturers.”

Kolodge noted that the industry expects to sell about 14 million vehicles to consumers this year – and roughly another 3 million will go to government and commercial users not included in the study. Considering only the retail sales, at least 2.8 million consumers are paying for technology they are not using.

Consumers would like to dump some of this technology when they next purchase a car, the study found.

The most frequently cited reasons for not wanting a specific technology feature in their next purchase are because they “did not find it useful” in their current vehicle and the technology “came as part of a package on my current vehicle and I did not want it.”

Moreover, new car owners who reported that their dealer did not explain the feature have a higher likelihood of never using the technology. In some instances, the buyers didn’t even know they have the technology in their new vehicle.

J.D. Power surveyed 4,200 vehicle owners and lessees after 90 days of ownership from April through June of this year.

Kolodge noted that the technologies owners most often want are those that enhance the driving experience and safety, which are only available as a built-in feature rather than via an external device. This included features such as vehicle health diagnostics, blind-spot warning and detection, and adaptive cruise control.

Automakers said they are giving consumers what they want, adding that more technology, rather than less, is on its way.

"Consumers are looking for innovative ways to bring their digital lives into their vehicles and their vehicles into their digital lives," said Klaus-Peter Martin, a General Motors spokesman.

"For the next few years, consumers are going to get a fire hose of new technology that they have never seen before,” said John Hanson, spokesman for Toyota.

Much of the technology will connect the car to other cars and networks and some of it will be high-level driver assistance technologies such as forward collision warnings that trigger automatic braking, he said.

Toyota plans to offer safety package options for nearly every Toyota and Lexus vehicle sold in the U.S. by the end of 2016. The packages will sell for $300 to $500 for Toyotas and $500 to $635 for Lexus models.

“People are starting to demand technology if they see a real safety benefit in it,” Hanson said. “It will escalate quicker than ever over the next few years as we see higher levels of automated driver assist developed.”

©2015 the Los Angeles Times Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.