Safety-Related Technologies Are among the Most Desired Features Buyers Want on Their Next Vehicles

October 26, 2004

WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif.—Technologies that focus on safety are the among most desired features new-vehicle buyers would like to see on their next vehicles, particularly by women, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2004 Feature Contenting ReportSM released today.

The study, now in its ninth year, explores the features new-vehicle buyers currently have on their vehicles, what features they would like to have on their next vehicle, and the price they are willing to pay for those features. The study examines 50 features that are divided into “traditional” and “emerging” categories. Traditional features are typically those that have been on the market for a few years and utilize relatively older technology. Emerging features make extensive use of cutting-edge technology and typically have low penetration rates.

Overall, emerging features that improve safety are desired the most by consumers for their next vehicles. Side impact and “smart” airbags, which use sensors to inflate the airbag based on the size of the occupant, generate the most demand from consumers among emerging features included in the study. The number of buyers exhibiting a strong interest in having side impact airbags on their next vehicles has increased 9 percentage points since 2000 to 81 percent in 2004. Only 38 percent of respondents say they have side impact airbags on their vehicles—an increase of 18 percentage points over the past five years, but still well below the 81 percent who express strong interest. Interest is also very high for other safety features such as stability control, electronic traction control and brake assist.

“While safety is a common theme among buyers across all vehicle segments, the study finds that features focusing on safety are particularly desirable among women buyers,” said Neal Oddes, director of product research at J.D. Power and Associates. “While women buyers show strong interest in features such as tire pressure monitors and run-flat tires, men tend to be more interested in features focusing on vehicle sound and on performance, such as satellite radio, premium-branded sound systems and superchargers/turbochargers.”

Among traditional features, anti-lock brakes continue to have the highest penetration and desirability of all the traditional features included in the report. Eighty-six percent of owners state that their new vehicle has anti-lock brakes, and 93 percent want it on their next vehicle.

The traditional feature with the greatest opportunity for growth is the passenger mirror that automatically adjusts downward to help view the curb when the vehicle is in reverse. While 38 percent of buyers say they want this feature, only 8 percent of respondents currently have it on their vehicle. Other traditional features with strong potential for growth include multi CD changers and memory seats.

“Vehicle features are typically first introduced in the luxury segments and eventually filter down to non-luxury models as the technology becomes more widespread and affordable, which makes the awareness of these features by non-luxury owners just as critical to the success of a feature’s growth,” said Oddes. “We’ve found that successful features with high consumer demand, such as navigation systems and stability control, can actually help improve overall customer satisfaction with the vehicle.”

The 2004 Feature Contenting Report is based on responses from 102,951 owners of new 2004 and early-release 2005 model-year vehicles.

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