Car manufacturers, take heed: While you’re hard at work redefining the future of driving by developing completely autonomous vehicles, today’s consumers are looking for new cars loaded with high-tech safety features. But though they’re willing to pay for some of these advances, they may not be prepared to pay as much as these features actually cost to make.
In researching Americans’ feelings toward the ever-evolving technology within cars, CheapCarInsurance.net surveyed 1,000 drivers to find out what features they cared about most. Of the 10 most important features, eight were safety-related. Side air bags were regarded as the most-desired feature, which is appropriate considering these previously optional additions are now standard. Blind spot warning systems, automatic emergency braking, and reverse rearview cameras were also some of the features favored by American motorists.
Silicon Valley may want to cover its collective ears for this next part: Some of the least important tech features are Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. While a few companies have recently aired commercials touting 2017 or 2018 flagship models that carry these automotive operating systems, the features themselves are far removed from those most sought-after, namely, USB ports and cruise control.
Safety features, such as front fog lamps and rear parking sensors, were seen as more important than Bluetooth connectivity. While plenty of Americans are looking to cut the cord at home, they’re happy with their car’s USB ports so long as an automatic emergency braking system is part of the total package. This is where manufacturers need to pivot and think differently about constructing feature packages that will appeal to consumers — while carefully considering cost.
The survey indicated that some of the most sought-after features are undervalued by consumers. Automotive companies face an uphill battle when it comes to educating buyers about the actual cost of these upgrades. For example, while many people are willing to spend more than $400 on side air bags, the actual cost runs anywhere from $200 to $1,000.
Automatic emergency braking systems, which can save lives, cost upwards of $2,000, but consumers would only expect to pay around $250. Another example is drowsiness alert systems that help drivers struggling to stay awake at the wheel. These systems can retail for anywhere between $2,000 and $12,000, but automotive consumers place their value closer to $150.
Though many safety features are making their way into cars for the first time, it seems automobile manufacturers haven’t found a way to bridge the gap between consumer perception of value and the real sticker price. Some of the most important, life-saving technology available for cars today just hasn’t transitioned from a nice-to-have to a need-to-have.
Car manufacturers could move forward by designing technology and safety packages more in tune with consumers’ needs, offering a mix of features that better align with what buyers want. Instead of heated steering wheels or smart cars with in-dash operating systems — like Android Auto or Apple CarPlay — they could work on bundling different types of camera or braking systems together to offer real value when it comes to safety.
Will car companies listen to consumer demands or will they continue to push additional technologies on consumers who aren’t really receptive? As 2018 models roll onto the lots, it’ll be up to the consumers to speak with their wallets so car companies are incentivized to shift toward features drivers actually want: those that offer technology at a reasonable cost while prioritzing safety. If a company could do this, not only would it gain marketshare, but the consumer would win and we would all benefit from safer roads.
Carly Johnson is a project manager for CheapCarInsurance.net, a car insurance quote site.