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Buyers want tech in cars, Gen Y will pay more for it

Melissa Burden
The Detroit News

Consumers are more interested in technologies such as blind-spot detection and night-vision assistance than touch-screens in their next vehicle, and younger drivers are more willing to pay for that technology, according to a J.D. Power study.

The 2015 U.S. Tech Choice Study looked at 59 advanced vehicle features across six categories including entertainment and connectivity; comfort and convenience; collision protection; driving assistance; navigation; and energy efficiency. The study found the five most preferred technologies were blind-spot detection and prevention, night vision, enhanced collision mitigation system, camera rearview mirror, which allows drivers to switch between a mirror and camera image, and self-healing paint that has fewer scratches than conventional paint. The least-preferred technologies included a health and wellness system, hand gesture controlled cockpit, hand gesture controlled seat, biometric driver sensors and touch screens.

J.D. Power presented the study at the Automotive Press Association on Wednesday in Detroit.

The study found that Generation Y and Generation X consumers — millennials born in 1980 and later and consumers born in the 1960s and 1970s — have a higher preference for full, self-driving technology that performs driving function and monitors roadway conditions than baby boomers and pre-boomers. The pre-boomer generation, according to the study, has a higher preference for systems such as traffic jam assist, which use cameras and radars to control the speed of the car and distance of your car with others.

J.D. Power said findings show growing customer acceptance toward the idea of a vehicle taking over functions such as braking and steering, which are the building blocks in a vehicle that may be able to drive on its own.

"Collision protection resonated extremely well across generations and across vehicle segments," said Kristin Kolodge, executive director of driver interaction & HMI research at J.D. Power.

The study also found there was universal importance among generations and vehicle segments for blind-spot detection, simple wireless device connections, remote vehicle diagnostics and camera rearview mirror technologies. The most frequently selected as least preferred technologies included email integration, trailer connect assist, health and wellness system, Apple CarPlay suite, hidden door handles.

People, including younger consumers, buy a vehicle first to get to Point A to Point B and they want to do it safely, said Brian Radloff, director of automotive strategic accounts for Nuance Communications Inc.

"People want their cars to be cars," said Radloff. "And they want the technology that goes into these cars to be primarily about the driving experience. And once they have these good technologies in their car, then you'll get to these secondary or tertiary interest areas, the smartphone connectivities and things like that."

The research company said it found that price was the most important consideration for technology and that Generation Y shows the most willingness to spend on new technologies than Generation X or baby boomers.

Generation Y consumers, who have purchased 27.7 percent of new vehicles this year and are expected to overtake boomers as the group buying the most cars in eight years, willspend an average of $3,703 on technology for their next vehicle, J.D Power says. Gen X will pay $3,007, while boomers and pre-boomers will spend $2,416 and $2,067, respectively.

Kolodge said the study also shows that consumer preferences to Apple CarPlay and Google Android Auto technologies depend on which smartphone they own. The study found those who own a smartphone compatible with Apple CarPlay or Google Android Auto technologies would choose the technology that works with their phone at a "moderate rate," while those with the other kind of smartphone would "rarely, if ever, choose that technology."

She said owners of luxury vehicles tend to own iOS devices, so many luxury brands may benefit by offering Apple CarPlay.

The study was conducted in January through March. The online survey consisted of more than 5,300 people who bought or leased a new vehicle in the past five years.