The sheer variety of models and features available on lots today is staggering. Where once shoppers had only a handful of options to choose from, the modern auto customer can pretty much customize his or her vehicle without putting an order into a manufacturer or paying through the nose.
This is also an era of automation and electrification. Cars leaving factories are being outfitted with state-of-the-art technology that allows for safer driving conditions. The industry is on track towards full automation at affordable rates and many models will be powered by means other than traditional fuel.
As exciting as all this is, the majority of the enthusiasm is reserved to those within the industry. The average customer unaware of what these advances mean practically, and is often wary of considering new models over traditional makes. In 2017, Deloitte published findings from their annual consumer study. They found that US consumers still prefer basic automation, with interest in buying flagging the more automated a car become. 74% of those surveyed in the US felt fully self-driving cars would be unsafe.
These results mirror last year’s Cox Automotive Evolution of Mobility study. They found that consumer confidence in autonomous vehicles had dropped from 2016, with more people uncomfortable with the idea of fully automated cars. Surprisingly, given how much this generation prefers using technology over interacting directly with others, 68% of those asked said they were uncomfortable with computer-driven cars–only 39% said they’d feel uncomfortable being driven by a stranger.
That said, both reports found room for vehicular optimism: everyone seems to agree that more tech in cars will make cars better, and see autonomous safety features as ideal. In the Cox study, drivers expressed strong interest in features such as collision warning and avoidance systems, lane-keeping assistance, and 360-degree cameras. Deloitte saw that people were more willing to accept automation from brands they know and trust, and if there were proven track records.
Dealers reading this may be thinking, But those features exist! They’ve been tried and tested and are offered from recognizable car companies. And you’d be correct. The 21st century has seen leaps in automotive technology, and most new vehicles today incorporate several autonomous features that customers love.
The trouble lies in the fact that many buyers don’t realize this. The industry has advanced far quicker than public understanding and awareness. This leads to a gap in comfort, as consumers looking for a new car feel wary about using features that sound as though they’ve lost control.
As dealers, the way forward is through education. It is vital that sales teams familiarize themselves with new auto technology and be able to transmit the information in a way that doesn’t terrify customers. Explain how drivers may have already been, unknowingly, relying upon autonomous features already. Be able to demonstrate on the lot how different buttons, cameras, and other gadgetry works in a fun, comprehensible way. By being good teachers, you’ll find your dealership better able to transition customers towards consumer confidence in safer, more reliable vehicles; a win-win for all involved.