2016 was the start of the sports-utility-vehicle and crossover takeover, and 2017 represented the complete infiltration. Consumers were interested in vehicles that were larger, roomier, and outfitted with technology features that made safety and convenience a priority. 2017 was also a year of increased attention to electric cars and eventual autonomous technology. Models from Tesla, Nissan, Ford, Toyota, and BMW all made electric vehicles a priority. Consumers responded by increasing electric car auto sales by 47 percent with Tesla and Ford leading the pack. Seeing the trends that have dominated the industry this year, what can consumers look forward to in 2018?
Safety Continues to Take Center Stage
According to a 2017 Autotrader Car Technology Impact Study, 70 percent of respondents would rather have advanced safety features than information or entertainment features in their cars. As a result, many safety features that were considered premium a few years ago are now commonplace on more affordable models. One example is the rear-facing camera which will soon be mandatory for all 2018 vehicles. Also, in 2018, all Camry models will have Toyota’s Safety Sense suite. SUVs like the Honda Odyssey will have interior cameras, a nod to parents who are likely transporting children. There is also a rise in automakers acknowledging that many of their more affordable models may be purchased for teenagers, so many like the Chevrolet Malibu and various Nissan models have included safety technology that gives warnings when drivers go over preset speeds, or alerts parents when cars are being driven past a designated curfew time. Luxurious brands like Lexus include sensors which are meant to steer around pedestrians. Next year is shaping up to be one that puts safety first.
Cars are Becoming the Next Wi-Fi Hotspots
Car buyers are looking for vehicles that give them the technology comforts of home. In the Autotrader study, 44 percent of potential car buyers desired telematics as a feature in their next vehicle. The automakers have acknowledged their preferences, the 2018 Chevy Malibu, Ford Expedition, and Honda Accord all include an onboard Wi-Fi hotspot that takes data from a 4G LTE connection. Other vehicles in the past have utilized Wi-Fi technologies in cars, but most have been premium features in luxurious brands. This technology is finally making its way into some of the most popular vehicles for consumers in 2018.
Connectivity and Infotainment are Almost Standard
One of the top wish list items for consumers was the option to charge their devices within their cars wirelessly. The new Chevrolet Traverse, Ford Expedition, and Audi Q5 include multiple USB charging ports for each set of passengers. SUVs have been at the center of connectivity desires since they hold numerous passengers, many of which are under the age of 18 and are connected to their devices. Also, infotainment features like touchscreens and device syncing have become mainstream and are almost expected in new models. In 2015, a few carmakers began to include Apple CarPlay (and the Android equivalent), but in 2018 many late adopters like Buick, Cadillac, and Chevrolet are now joining in. The only significant holdout is Toyota who has decided to develop their own infotainment system using an open-source tech platform. Either way, consumers can expect navigation, music, and other comforts at their fingertips.
Autonomous Technology is Gradually Reaching the Masses
Thirty-four percent of respondents to the Autotrader study are interested in full autonomous functionality within the next two years. That is still a small number, but Tesla’s journey into the market has brought more attention to the functionality. While a majority of people might not be comfortable with a fully autonomous vehicle, there are still some semi-autonomous features consumers are looking for. Audi is planning to bring the first level 3 autonomous vehicle to consumers with cutting edge camera and sensors, while 2018 Volvo, Genesis, Lexus, and Infiniti models include autonomous features meant to enhance safety and minimize driver error.
Consumers Need More Time with Tech Features at the Dealership
As a result of all the innovation in safety, connectivity, and infotainment technology, a 2018 visit to the dealership could last a little longer. Usually, the hold-up is due to F&I, but as technology features become more complex car buyers may need a bit of training. Four in ten respondents in the Autotrader study felt the test drive was not a sufficient amount of time to master the technology and safety features in newer vehicles. Roughly, 67 percent thought they would need at least 30 minutes to work with the technology to feel comfortable. The retribution for not ensuring customers feel well-versed in technology is that 32 percent will give up and select another vehicle. Therefore, dealerships may have to increase the time for test drives and incorporate special onsite training for specific features. Also, as autonomous technologies become more advanced, it is critical for drivers to know where self-driving features began.