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Study: Connected Car High-Tech Features Popular, but More Marketing Muscle Needed to Spur Demand

Lack of consumer education also allowing Connected Car privacy concerns to persist

Move over George Jetson. You’re not the only one able totransition from favorite at-home or in-office technology to the car, where a’personal assistant’ makes dinner plans, reads messages, converts verbalreplies into emails and Facebook posts, and re-routes the commute to avoidcongestion on the road. Owners of so-called “Connected Cars” can doall that today and automakers are betting new car buyers will begin requestingthese and similar features soon.


The future may not be here soon enough because 42% of carowners (those with a 2009 model or later, who are also in the market for a newvehicle), have heard of Connected Cars but don’t really know what they do.Additionally, with cyber crimes and data breaches dominating the news,two-thirds (65%) of car owners say they fear owning a Connected Car couldcompromise their privacy. These are findings from the recently released 2014Harris Poll AutoTECHCAST(SM) study, an annual study of consumer awareness and adoptionof advanced and emerging automotive technologies. (Full findings, includingdata tables, available here)


What’s a Vehicle Manufacturer to Do?  A Case for Marketing With Connected Carfamiliarity and understanding low and privacy concerns high, it makes sensethat for 2014, only 15% of car owners say they are very/extremely interested inowning a Connected Car, while another 31% say they are not at all interested.Owners of three makes in the Luxury car segment show the most interest inowning a Connected Car: BMW (40%), Acura (37%) and Audi (34%).


“Given America’s reverence for technology, and thefact 10 million Connected Vehicles were sold in 2013, representing more thanhalf of all cars sold in the US, it is surprising so little is known about ConnectedCar technology,” said Ian Beavis, Executive Vice President, GlobalAutomotive, Nielsen.  “Thesefindings are a sobering report card on how much more groundwork must be laidbefore automakers can successfully monetize Connected Car services and ensurethat Connected Car adoption keeps pace with development efforts.  All of this uncertainty points to a need fororiginal equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to shift their energies from solelyengineering to marketing, where they can build awareness and educateconsumers.” 


Silver Lining

While overall awareness and familiarity with ConnectedCar technologies is low, familiarity and purchase interest with specificfeatures is higher. For example, features already available on some cars suchas Voice Activated Controls – voice commands that control vehicle systems -have a familiarity of 41%, although desire to install one in the next vehicleis only at 28%. Other, newer technologies such as Vehicle Mobile Applications -car apps, e.g. personal networking, Internet radio, movie/restaurantreservations, etc. – have an overall familiarity of 23% and next-vehicleinterest at 17%.


If Connected Car technologies follow the path of othernew technology introductions tracked in AutoTECHCAST over the last ten years, buildingawareness and familiarity can help drive adoption.  Historically in the AutoTECHCAST study, ascar owners better understand benefits, feature adoption follows. “Theback-up camera is one example of this phenomenon; familiarity and interest havetripled in the last 10 years,” added Beavis. “The question forautomakers is, how to design, market and engage auto buyers in order to driveinterest, while at the same time calming concerns over privacy issues.”


The Data Plan Dilemma

Connected Car design is moving in multiple directions:built-in, where capabilities reside with the vehicle; brought-in, where carowners plug their Smartphones into the car to access phone apps and data plans,or some combination of both. According to the AutoTECHCAST findings, nearlytwo-thirds of car owners (65%) say they want built-in connectivity, compared toslightly more than one third (35%) who prefer brought-in connectivity usingtheir smart phone. However, this poses a logistical issue, as more than half ofcar owners say they are less likely to buy a vehicle that uses a dataplan/carrier different from their own, and 31% say they are “much lesslikely” to purchase the vehicle. Solving this vehicle/data plan puzzle isessential for OEMs to move forward with Connected Car design.


Moreover, less than 20% of car owners are willing toshare aggregated data about their activities or agree to advertising inexchange for more or lower-cost data. One bright spot in the findings: youngervehicle owners are more open to both strategies.


Brand Awareness – The Opportunity

While only 14% of car owners say they know what aConnected Car is, 78% are aware of the Onstar brand and 33% are aware of Sync,awareness of other vehicle make systems remains relatively low.  This suggests the job of educating themarketplace and branding the benefits of Connected Car features is far fromcomplete.


For OEMs, Connected Cars represent a unique opportunityto develop a better understanding of their customers by gaining improvedinsight into consumer behavior in the vehicle. “Overall, the data shows astrong disconnect with current Connected Car strategies and consumerdemand,” said Beavis. “These systems add significant cost to avehicle and many involve an ongoing monthly fee.  Until there is a more compelling valueproposition for the consumer, these strategies spell risk.” 


Harris Poll AutoTECHCAST(SM) Methodology


The Harris Poll AutoTECHCAST(SM)study provides theautomotive industry with in-depth U.S. consumer research on over 70 advancedautomotive technologies covering Entertainment, Exterior & Interior Comfortand Convenience, Intelligent Sensing, Lighting, Powertrain and AlternativeFuels, Safety, and Telematics. The 2014 Harris Poll AutoTECHCAST(SM)study wasconducted online within the United States between April 1, 2014 – May 14, 2014among 13,962 U.S. adults ages 18 and over and who own or lease a vehicle modelyear 2009 or newer, have a valid driver’s license, intend to buy or lease a newvehicle at any point in the future, and anticipate being at least 50 percentinvolved in the decision to buy or lease their next household vehicle. Resultswere weighted as needed for age, gender, education, region and income and toproperly represent U.S. vehicle segment owners. Propensity score weighting alsowas used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online


These statements conform to the principles of disclosureof the National Council on Public Polls.


Harris Poll AutoTECHCAST(SM) study results disclosed inthis release may not be used for advertising, marketing or promotional purposeswithout the prior written consent of Harris Poll.


Product and brand names are trademarks or registeredtrademarks of their respective owners.


About Nielsen & The Harris Poll

On February 3, 2014, Nielsen acquired Harris Interactiveand The Harris Poll.  Nielsen HoldingsN.V. (NYSE: NLSN) is a global information and measurement company with leadingmarket positions in marketing and consumer information, television and othermedia measurement, online intelligence and mobile measurement. Nielsen has apresence in approximately 100 countries, with headquarters in New York, USA andDiemen, the Netherlands. For more information, visit


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