February 25, 2002

Survey says Europeans want more safety technology if it’s cheap enough

Agoura Hills, California – Creating global vehicle platforms may not be as difficult as first thought, given that consumers in Europe and the United States desire similar emerging technologies on their next vehicles, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2002 European Automotive Emerging Technologies Study released last week.

This inaugural European study examines consumer awareness and future demand for 17 automotive technologies across four markets: France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. A similar study has been performed annually in the United States since 2000.

“Manufacturers in the United States and Europe appear to be offering consumers exactly what they want – features that render a safer driving experience,” said Patricia Hogan, partner at J.D. Power and Associates in the UK. “Features like heated windshield glass, night vision, run-flat tires and electronic stability systems all promote safety by offering enhanced visibility or providing drivers with added peace of mind.”

Heated windshield (windscreen) glass garners the highest interest among European consumers. Nearly 90 percent of consumers express strong interest in the feature, which evenly clears away ice, snow and frost from the front windshield within three minutes, improving visibility. Heated windshield glass was also well received by U.S. consumers, however, not to the same extent as by the Europeans.

Run-flat tires, which have historically been the top feature choice in the United States, tie with night vision systems to rank second in overall interest among European consumers.

“As with U.S. consumers, concern for a tire blowout is the top reason mentioned for purchasing run-flat tires in Germany, the UK and the Netherlands,” said Jeff Taylor, senior research manager at J.D. Power and Associates in the United States. “However, French vehicle owners say they would choose run-flats primarily because a low-tire-pressure monitor is included.”

While consumer interest in features such as night vision, blind-spot warning and navigation systems is high overall, interest is substantially reduced when the anticipated price for such features is factored in.

“Interest in features such as these drops about 50 percentage points once a realistic price is attached to the technology,” said Taylor. “This occurs with many of the more expensive emerging technologies. While these features pique the interest of many consumers, they must first be offered at a price that is low enough to appeal to the average new-car buyer before being considered mainstream.”

In-vehicle Internet and e-mail capability and personal assistance services (e.g., OnStar, TeleAid), do not generate the degree of interest in Europe as do many of the other features examined, which is also the case in the United States. Two-thirds of consumers prefer to use a navigation system instead of a personal assistance service for directional information.

“Auto manufacturers and telematics service providers will have to demonstrate the value of many telematics products to generate consumer demand. As of right now, these features are being pushed by the industry, but consumers do not share the same level of enthusiasm,” said Taylor.

The 2002 European Automotive Emerging Technologies Study is based on responses from more than 6,200 consumers across France, Germany, the Netherlands and the UK.

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