US Insights

CES and the conundrum facing connected cars

Ross Tucker

Executive Editor Kantar US Insights

Mobile 01.09.2018 / 23:00

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Cars are packed with technology. Now tell the buyers.

The race among car manufacturers to introduce the world’s most technology-crammed and connected vehicle to the masses was, naturally, on full display at CES. The pace of innovation and the capabilities themselves are impressive. However recent Kantar research indicates that car manufacturers are outpacing consumers. I spoke with representatives of several major car brands during the show to get their take on this new challenge – convincing consumers why they need these technological enhancements and how they’re now essential parts of the cars themselves.

Earlier this week, Kantar TNS revealed the results of a global study into connected cars that showed tech features are being underutilized by consumers. In some case buyers don’t even know they exist.

According to our study of the attitudes and purchase behaviors of more than 8,500 consumers across Europe, North America and China, 25% of car owners are not actively using their connected car’s features, and 11% don’t know if their vehicle has them. In a ranking of purchasing considerations, consumers put “connectivity” at the bottom of their list of concerns, well behind things like safety and brand image.

But tech and connectivity were front and center on the show floor. Jeep’s 2018 Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon is billed as the “most technologically advanced Wrangler ever.” The Uconnect system for Jeep can keep buyers connected to their car 24 hours a day, allowing them to check their fuel, the odometer, tire pressure and countless other pieces of information. The car can be started, unlocked and the lights turned on all through the app.

Jeep Consul

This year, added features to the Uconnect system include being able to track the vehicle and set a series of boundary alerts, letting you know if a valet driver takes the car for a joy ride or if your teenager has exceeded the speed limit by a set amount. It also now pairs with Apple and Android phones and smartwatches.

Mike Novak, Uconnect marketing manager, said he wasn’t too surprised to hear that car buyers weren’t taking full advantage of their car’s tech capabilities. Focus is being paid to producing How To videos and offering extensive dealer training. Beyond that, Novak believes the user experience has to sell itself.

 “For Uconnect in particular we’ve developed a reputation for not being too complex,” said Novak. “We’re trying to keep that, whether it’s the touch screen in the vehicle or the mobile app or voice controls, that’s what we work hard at.”

 At Nissan, a representative said the company is developing technology that will allow the car to sense electrical impulses from the driver’s brain. The idea is to shorten the lag time between thought and physical action. But Nissan is already putting out vehicles with semiautonomous driver technology. Nissan’s representative told me there was little doubt that marketing the technical aspects of these cars will have to be a top priority.

Nissan X1

“You’ve got to be part of customers’ lives,” they said. “You can’t be relaxed about it. You can’t be relaxed about how you market or how you explain these technologies.”

So, how should car brands close the knowledge gap?

“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,” said Paul Crispell, U.S. Connected Car Lead at Kantar TNS. “In mature markets such as the U.S., it’s clear that for now, dealer networks still have a big role to play here as trusted players in the path to purchase.

Source: Kantar, Kantar TNS

Editor's Notes

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