August 9, 2002


Japanese consumers rank safety features most important

Westlake Village, California – Japanese new-vehicle buyers rate technologies relating to safety and security highest overall, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2002 Japan Emerging Technologies Study released yesterday. The study examines consumer awareness and future demand for 17 automotive technologies in Japan. J.D. Power and Associates conducts similar studies in the United States and Europe.

“Though there are differences between the Japanese, European and U.S. markets, what is most striking is that across all three, consumers are generally more interested in safety-related features than in convenience and communications technologies such as personal assistance services, in-vehicle Internet and satellite radio,” said Frank Forkin, partner at J.D. Power and Associates. “Safety features universally appeal to consumers because they provide added peace of mind.”

Heated front windshield glass, which improves visibility by evenly clearing away ice, snow and frost within minutes, attracts strong interest in 70 percent of consumers. Other popular safety features are night vision systems, run-flat tires and vehicle stability control.

Among the 17 technologies studied, consumers are most familiar with navigation systems. These systems also attract the most interest among Japanese consumers, which is not surprising given the number of years these systems have been available. Nearly 40 percent of consumers in Japan self-report having a navigation system in their current vehicle, compared to only a 1 percent penetration in the U.S. market.

But while the idea of new technologies draws the interest of many consumers, interest often wanes when realistic prices are revealed. The largest disparities in interest prior to and after price is revealed occur with night vision, heated windshield glass and adaptive cruise control. Satellite radio, which requires a low-priced subscription fee, is the only feature whose consumer interest increases once the market price is presented.

Electronic toll collection (ETC), which is being introduced by the Japanese government as a means of controlling traffic congestion, registers a high awareness among consumers, but less than one-half of survey respondents express interest in including an ETC device in their vehicle. ETC systems allow for automatic tracking and collection of highway tolls without the need for the driver to stop at a tollgate. The study shows that consumers would be most tempted to purchase an ETC system if this method affords them a discount on toll charges.

“While overall interest among consumers is low, we find that interest in electronic toll collection systems soars among consumers who have tried the technology,” said Forkin. “Better communication of the benefits of ETC to the public will most likely increase adoption rates.”

The 2002 Japan Emerging Technologies Study is based on responses from more than 9,000 consumers in Japan who purchased or leased a new vehicle within the last five years.

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