December 13, 2002

New safety features top list of most desired features

Westlake Village, California – Consumers show considerably more interest in new safety-
related features than in entertainment, comfort or convenience features, according to the
J.D. Power and Associates 2002 U.S. Automotive Emerging Technologies Study released on

On an annual basis, J.D. Power and Associates solicits consumer feedback on a select
list of new and emerging automotive features to assist manufacturers in better
understanding which features are most desired and how much value consumers place on each

Among the 25 features measured in the 2002 study, nine of the top 10 most desired
features are designed to enhance vehicle or occupant safety. The low-tire-pressure
monitor, an electronic sensing system that monitors the vehicle’s tire pressure and
alerts the driver when tire pressure is low and potentially unsafe, is the most popular
feature measured.

“Given the high level of interest U.S. consumers also had with run-flat tires, it is
clear that they have concerns about the safety of their tires and are looking for
technological advancements to alleviate some of the fear generated by high-profile tire
recalls,” said Jeremy Bowler, senior research manager at J.D. Power and Associates.

Other safety-related features at the top of consumers’ lists include anti-whiplash
seats, which are designed to reduce injuries associated with whiplash by automatically
repositioning the seat during a collision to provide support to the occupant’s head. Also
popular among consumers is a night vision system that uses infrared technology to help
drivers see objects at night or in poor visibility conditions.

External surround sensing, vehicle stability control, adaptive cruise control and
headlight systems that adapt to current driving conditions are also safety-related
features in which consumers showed strong interest.

“Unlike airbags and seat belts that help protect vehicle occupants after an accident
has taken place, the majority of safety-related features that consumers most desire
actively assist the driver in avoiding an accident in the first place,” said
Bowler. “However, consumers will only pay so much for such features. Interest levels drop
on nearly all of the features measured once consumers are shown the likely price of that
feature on their next vehicle. For example, while night vision is one of the most desired
features in the study before price is introduced, it plummets to near the bottom of the
list when consumers are shown the current market price of $1,800.”

Among the non-safety-related features measured, consumers are most interested in
digital premium surround sound in their vehicles, made popular in home theater systems.
Consumers also express a strong interest in driver-recognition systems and advanced
temperature-management systems that maintain a constant preset temperature in the vehicle
much like a home’s thermostat.

“Imagine heading out in a 90 degree day and leaving your vehicle parked for two hours
on an asphalt parking lot while you go shopping, then returning to your vehicle without
the need to roll down the windows, open the doors and wait for the air conditioning to
kick in,” said Bowler.

Many of the features in the study that do not generate much interest in general do much
better with key demographic and niche groups. For example, women with children are very
interested in rear- seat entertainment and occupant-monitoring systems. Young men are
much more likely to be interested in electronic information and entertainment features
such as navigation, in-vehicle Internet, flexible format audio players and satellite
radio. Older consumers are more likely to show interest in personal assistance services.

One futuristic feature that did not necessarily fare well in the study is “drive-by-
wire” technology. These electronic control systems, which are similar to the technology
used in the latest military fighter aircraft, would replace many of the mechanical and
hydraulic connections with wire systems linking the steering wheel, gear shift and pedals
with the vehicle’s steering, transmission, throttle and brakes. These systems could
eventually utilize joystick-like controls that would eliminate the need for a steering
wheel, freeing up room in the interior for other potential new advancements.

“Consumers aren’t ready to give up the traditional steering wheel and pedal controls,
exemplifying the old axiom, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,'” Bowler said. “Some
consumers also express concerns about the reliability of an unproven new technology for
vehicles. Drive-by-wire may have to be proven first in a secondary system, such as the
parking brake, before consumers grow more comfortable with the idea of replacing the
traditional primary control systems in their vehicles.”

The 2002 U.S. Automotive Emerging Technologies Study includes responses from 22,362
owners who have purchased or leased a new car or light truck in the past three years. The
study is designed to measure consumer familiarity, interest and purchase intent for
emerging automotive technologies.

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