The Car and Truck Fleet and Leasing Management Magazine

Buyers Want Safety and Hi-Tech Features

October 19, 2001

Next-generation airbags are high on the list of safety-related equipment desired by new-vehicle buyers, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2001 Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Feature Contenting Report released today. Safety-related features such as airbags and vehicle control systems continue to be among the most desired equipment consumers would like to see in new vehicles. Head protection/side curtain airbags are the most desired feature. The new airbags help reduce the effects of side-impact accidents by deploying from above the doors, covering glass areas. While only 7 percent of vehicles currently have the new airbags, 66 percent of new-vehicle buyers expressed a strong interest in seeing them in their next vehicles. Side airbags, which are currently in 28 percent of new vehicles, continue to increase in popularity. An average of 77 percent of respondents wanted them on their next car. “Drivers have come to rely on airbags as a major safety feature in their vehicles,” said Neal Oddes, manager of product research at J.D. Power and Associates. “The next step in the evolution of airbags is to provide additional protection to occupants from side collisions.” Features that help drivers maintain control of their vehicles in emergencies repeatedly rank in the top five most-desired emerging features. These include: stability control, designed to distribute power and braking evenly to wheels to prevent skidding and loss of control; brake assist, which helps the driver apply maximum braking power in an emergency; and traction control, which helps prevent wheelspin on wet or slippery surfaces. Such control features take the guesswork out of driver reaction and response through a computer-assisted operating system. For the first time in the history of the report, more emerging features than traditional features are analyzed, reflecting the high-tech desires of today’s consumers. For example, while demand for traditional cassette players in new vehicles is down, there is high interest in new audio features such as MP3 playback capability and satellite radios. Consumers are also increasingly interested in emerging alternative-power technologies such as hybrid power that combine both fuel and electric powertrains. There are currently only two models with hybrid power on the U.S. market – the Honda Insight and Toyota Prius – but 31 percent of new-vehicle owners desire this kind of environment-friendly technology in the future. “Interest in hybrids is gaining momentum, and they are likely to be the next major feature to impact the automotive market,” said Brian Walters, director of product research at J.D. Power. “Consumers are watching this emerging technology closely, and alternative-power features could significantly change the landscape of the automotive industry.”
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