Connected Cars an Opportunity for Dealers

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According to a recent research report, 25 percent of car owners are not actively using their connected car’s features (a figure which includes 11 percent who don’t even know if their vehicle has the technology).

The study comes from a survey of the attitudes and purchase behaviour of more than 8,500 consumers across Europe, North America and China by one of the world’s largest research agencies, Kantar TNS.

The findings show that despite investing vast amounts of capital in embedding new technologies and services, auto brands are struggling to convince owners of these ‘connected’ benefits. In fact, more than half (60 percent) of drivers who accessed these services at the time of car purchase either don’t plan to, or are unsure whether they will renew them in the future.

“We are seeing car manufacturers competing for market share by differentiating their offer with ever-more sophisticated technologies and services,” said Paul Crispell, U.S. Connected Car Lead, Kantar TNS. “But we’re not yet seeing this translate into embedded and habitual usage among car owners. We found a clear disconnect between what manufacturers are producing and what the car owners are looking for.”

Kantar TNS finds that for many owners, the technology is still seen as an optional extra and not an intrinsic or embedded part of the vehicle. This highlights a perception gap given the role that technology and connectivity can play in the vehicle’s performance, safety and the driving experience. The study finds that 52 percent of respondents would pay for driver related services such as navigation features—a figure which falls drastically to 26 percent for entertainment features where buyers often prefer to use well-known apps on smartphones rather than the in-built services of their cars.

Globally, it’s clear that premium brand owners are leading the way in terms of the adoption of connected features, with a higher proportion of premium owners willing to pay for connected features when compared with mainstream brand vehicle owners. For example, while 52 percent of all car owners cited navigation features as something they would be willing to pay for, this rises to 72 percent when looking at only premium car owners.

Auto brands are in a strong position when it comes to perceptions of safety and security among drivers, as they enjoy significantly more trust than other tech companies—40 percent of consumers trust car brands with their data compared with 10 percent for companies such as Google and Facebook. Aside from security and privacy, demonstrating how technology can improve driver and passenger safety will also appeal to consumers—with 43 percent of the users of connected features globally saying it is an attractive feature.

There is further good news for car manufacturers as the study shows there’s a strong appetite for connected vehicle purchases, with over half of consumers planning a connected vehicle as their next car purchase, with an overwhelming majority of people (64 percent) looking to their car dealers for guidance on these emerging technologies.

“In the minds of many car owners, connectivity is complex. Rather than following the ‘build it and they will buy’ model, auto brands have an opportunity to grow their market share by simplifying their features, aligning them with the core customer wish list and by communicating the benefits more effectively within their existing marketing channels,” says Crispell. “In mature markets such as North America, it’s clear that for now, dealer networks still have a big role to play here as trusted players in the path to purchase.

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