Driving the future

Understanding the new automotive consumer

About the survey

Recently, the buzz about the vehicle of tomorrow has reached a fevered pitch. Not only are traditional automotive companies showcasing their latest exciting connectivity features but major enterprises and startup technology companies are also getting in on the game.

Digging into consumer perceptions will provide the framework for understanding the auto tech future. We took a closer look at autonomous vehicles, in-car technologies, car sharing and ride sharing. 

In-car technology

74% of respondents would consider having comprehensive vehicle tracking  in their vehicles. 

How much consumers might want a new feature also did not always align with a willingness to pay for it. Smartphone integration emerged as a feature that consumers expect to come with a vehicle, without the need to pay more for it. But consumers would open their wallets for options like remote vehicle shutdown and comprehensive vehicle tracking. However, this does not delineate a consumer’s option to pay more for autonomous vehicles.

Ride sharing 

55% of respondents say they are interested in trying ride sharing.

Millennials are currently the biggest patrons of ride sharing with 60% saying they have used it. One of the primary reasons consumers opt for ride sharing over traditional taxis is cost: 75% agree that ride sharing is more affordable than taking a taxi.

Car sharing

70% say they have heard of car sharing.

For most consumers, car sharing is not a replacement for owning a car. While 53% agree that car sharing has fewer hassles than owning a car, nearly three-quarters (73%) would prefer to pay for their own car than use car sharing services. 

Autonomous vehicles

43% have safety concerns about autonomous vehicles.

Providing better transportation for the elderly is seen as a key advantage by most consumers. Not surprisingly, safety emerged as the major consumer concern about autonomous vehicles. More than half (53%) say they are scared of self-driving cars: 54% say that autonomous cars are dangerous, and 28% say autonomous vehicles are susceptible to hacking.

Some guideposts

Generation Z may take some wooing

As we saw earlier, Gen Z doesn’t seem to have the enthusiasm for cars and auto tech that their older counterparts Gen Y and Gen X do. Either Gen Z is too young to be concerned about cars, or this could signal serious problems for the entire automotive industry if it continues. Companies will want to keep an eye on this group by offering them services that connect them more seamlessly. Focus groups have pointed out that anything from in-car Wi-Fi to a decrease of insurance costs are primary drivers for Gen Z to engage in these automotive upgrades.

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Companies will need to think twice when it comes to the personalization/privacy divide

Even consumers who are excited about new auto tech developments are wary of giving up privacy. Forays into areas like customized in-car advertising will need to proceed with caution. 

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Trust is more important than ever

For autonomous vehicles and certain in-car technologies to succeed, consumers need to be willing to give up control and, to a degree, put their safety in the hands of their vehicles. Thus, established brands that already engender consumer trust may have an advantage. 

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The window is open for tech companies

Consumers consistently say they would be receptive to the idea of leading technology companies offering autonomous vehicles, as well as ride sharing or car sharing services. This gives tech brands like Google, Apple and Microsoft an opportunity to disrupt the automotive category. Our data suggest that right now, traditional automotive brands have the edge over tech brands in the minds of the consumers. And given the upscale nature of the category of early adopters, luxury auto brands may be in a particularly strong position to dominate auto tech.

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Language is important

Consumers seem to have visceral responses to terms such as driverless cars. Companies need a compelling way to talk about these emerging technologies, so that consumers understand the concepts behind them, and at the same time, will respond positively to what the companies promise to deliver.

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Both in-car technology and ride sharing may offer a foot in the door for autonomous vehicles

In-car technologies that offer “self-driving lite” features (e.g., automatic braking) may be a good way to gradually introduce consumers to the concept of autonomous driving. These technologies appear to have mainstream acceptance and are less associated with the fear factor than are purely “driverless” vehicles. Ride sharing is another way to test autonomous driving with consumers—and to win over early adopters, who are the most likely users of these services. Both Uber and Lyft are introducing semi-autonomous vehicles to their fleets through partnerships with the OEMs. This will help seed the  marketplace and give consumers a means of sampling the technology before committing to it.

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Contact us

Victoria Sinichkina

Director, Advisory, Automotive, PwC Russia

Tel: +7 (495) 223 5151

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