In early October, the J.D. Power 2021 US Tech Experience Index Study was released, and it helps define what customers find valuable in their vehicle purchase. For anyone in sales, it won’t come as a surprise that certain tech features are a hit among car buyers while others don’t resonate at all. The study breaks down what dealers know, expounding on the top features buyers want and the impact of tech on vehicle sales.

The Tech Experience Index Study found that advanced tech features often go unused. For one-third of the features, less than half of owners say they’ve used them within the first 90 days of ownership – a poor sign that they’ll ever be used as intended as either a safety or convenience feature on a regular basis. For most of the owners who don’t use a feature, it’s stated as something they don’t need.

Related: Embrace technology in the service department for faster turnaround times

However, including these features invariably drives up the cost as well as the selling price. In a market like today’s, it’s unlikely to deter many buyers but when more choices are available, unnecessary options may well drive shoppers to find a more suitably equipped vehicle at another dealership or with another brand.

Kristin Kolodge is the Executive Director of Human-Machine Interface (HMI) at J.D. Power. She said, “New-vehicle prices are at an all-time high, partly as a result of an increased level of content. This is fine if owners are getting value for their money, but some features seem like a waste to many owners.”

Features that customers tend not to use

The study notes a couple of features that are seldom used by vehicle owners, yet are often equipped among certain brands. One example is “in-vehicle digital market technology” and fewer than four in ten owners of vehicles equipped with the tech have ever used it. More than half state that they have no use for the feature, yet it’s been included in their vehicle’s build package.

Honda CabinTalk®

Another feature that’s seldom used is driver-passenger communication tech, like Honda’s CabinTalk. While the option to scold children seated in the backseat over the audio system sounds beneficial, 52% of vehicle owners with that type of tech have never employed it – probably because it’s faster to yell over your shoulder. Again, four in ten owners say they don’t need the feature.

Don’t push tech upgrades that aren’t on the ‘want’ list

The idea that added tech is of value to everyone simply isn’t true, and while a good salesperson can talk a customer into the increased payments and the value of the tech, it isn’t necessarily going to be of any benefit for the customer or dealership in months down the road. When they’re ‘talked into’ extras or a higher trim level than they sought, it tends to damage the dealer’s image in the customer’s head and can negate future referrals or repeat sales.

For customers sure of what they want, it’s often a better solution for salespeople to find the closest match possible or offer a dealer trade or factory order rather than fit a proverbial square peg in a round hole. It becomes a store culture issue if the sales manager is pushing the salesperson to upsell the trim level to move steel that’s on the lot.

Spend time explaining tech at delivery and beyond

Of the vehicle owners who don’t use the tech features their car is equipped with, it may also come down to demonstrating its ease of use and benefits. At the point of delivery, ensure that the delivery coordinator or salesperson is knowledgeable in the vehicle’s features and can thoroughly set up, explain, and demonstrate how they function.

And since the point of delivery is exciting for the buyer, it may be necessary to follow up by phone and email to help them work through feature implementation. For certain features that are more complex, asking directly, “Have you had a chance to use <the feature> yet? Is there anything I can do to help?” can be of value.

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