Survey reveals disconnect between what consumers want and what automakers want to give them

DeloitteFor the past 10 years, Deloitte (New York) has surveyed consumers around the world to identify trends in the automotive industry across countries and generations. Deloitte’s latest data and insights of automotive consumer trends in the 2019 Global Automotive Consumer Study contains some surprising information.

While we’re generally told by the automotive industry that most consumers want autonomous, electric, connected vehicles, Deloitte’s survey doesn’t exactly support that idea. Deloitte surveyed 25,000 consumers in 20 countries, and uncovered some information that may be surprising to the industry.

First of all, consumers have a caveat when it comes to autonomous vehicles (AVs): They must be safe. Consumers are starting to doubt the safety of AVs, given a spate of recent accidents. Sixty-five percent of consumers responding to the survey say they agree or strongly agree that safety is a big concern. Only 39% of respondents in the United States trust traditional automakers to bring fully autonomous vehicles to market.

In fact, Deloitte notes that when it comes to AVs, consumers are “pumping the brakes.” Consumer interest in self-driving vehicles lags the pace of investment in advanced vehicle technology, according to survey data. “Consumer trust in autonomous vehicles appears to be stalling,” said the survey. “In the United States, 50% of survey respondents do not believe AVs are safe—nearly the same as last year’s 47%—but drastically different from 2017, when 74% voiced safety concerns.” An “overwhelming percentage of consumers” worldwide are looking to government to increase regulations for AVs, including 56% of U.S. consumers.

When it comes to electric vehicles (EVs), things are not looking so bright, either. EVs are finally showing potential to scale, but 71% of U.S consumers say their preference for their next vehicle is for an internal combustion engine (ICE). Another 22% say that a hybrid electric will be their choice. While Deloitte says EVs “have captured consumer interest,” they have not captured consumers’ wallets. The survey showed that only 29% of U.S. survey respondents would prefer a hybrid, battery or other alternative to traditional drive-trains for their next vehicle, up from 20% last year. 

Those numbers won’t exactly make GM, which announced it will build fewer ICE vehicles and devote more resources to EVs, jump for joy.  Deloitte noted that low fuel prices, relaxed emissions standards and fewer rebates could dampen U.S. EV adoption.

Connectivity is the next big thing. Or not. “Consumers may be reluctant to pay for connectivity,” said the survey. Only 47% of U.S. consumers feel increased vehicle connectivity will be beneficial compared with 79% of Chinese consumers and 76% of consumers in India. Only Germany (35%) and Japan (36%) rated connectivity’s benefits lower than the U.S.

Although nearly half of consumers feel they will reap benefits from advanced connectivity, not many are willing to pay extra for it. The extra amount consumers would pay for vehicles that can communicate with other vehicles and road infrastructure to improve safety tells the story. Forty-three percent of German consumers wouldn’t be willing to pay anything for this, and ditto for 33% of U.S consumers; 40% of German consumers and 42% of U.S. consumers would pay “a little” for enhanced connectivity. Once again, Asian consumers would be willing to pay “a little” more: 72% of Japanese consumers, 43% of India’s consumers and 50% of Chinese consumers.

Consumers are generally leery of connectivity. A recent study modeling what could happen to traffic in a city like New York if hackers were able to disrupt vehicles’ connectivity devices proves that they may be right. In fact, it would appear by the results of Deloitte’s survey that trust is a big issue with AVs, EVs and enhanced connectivity, and the companies that make them.

Most U.S. consumers use their vehicles on a daily basis rather than ride hailing or other modes of transportation. Only the Gen Y/Z survey respondents (46%) say they would question whether they even need to own a vehicle. That would appear to put the baby boomers in the driver’s seat. And that’s something that U.S. automotive OEMs should really think about long and hard before investing in what they believe consumers will want.

Image courtesy Deloitte.

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