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Christopher Bruce2012-09-20 12:27:45

Cars from the Future: Part I; What People Want

The move to more expensive, cleaner technology might backfire for some automakers

Over the next six weeks on Autoviva, we are going to be running a series of stories about what Europeans want from their cars not only now but in the future. In our first part we are going to look at what Europeans want from their future vehicles.

The study that this series is based on comes from the German research firm Gesellschaft für Konsumforschung GfK (the Society for Consumption Research). It interviewed 8,844 people from Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain aged between 18 and 65. They were interviewed in April and May of 2012. 

The good news is that 91.8% of Europeans believe that cars in the next 25 years will improve their quality of life. The two major factors driving European's next car purchase are safety and price. In the survery, 92.6% of respondents either completely agreed or somewhat agreed that safety would be a high expectation of a car that they bought in the next 25 years. It was rated as being of number one importantance in every country surveyed.  

Being resonably priced was the second most important factor with 88.8% looking for it in their next car. It was rated second-highest by every country except for Austria and Spain. 

The least important thing to European buyers is whether the car shows their status. Just 35% said that it will play a role. It was least important in every country.

Enivronmental friendliness is important, but not as important as one might think. It ranked soldily in the middle with 85.7% saying that it will be important, but Austria ranked it the highest in second. Every other country ranked it in either third or fourth. Females slightly prefer environmentally friendly cars over makes, 88% versus 83%, and a desire with better sustainability correlates with more education. 

"What is interesting is the conflict between cost-effective and environmentally friendly mobility. Switching from conventional drives to low CO2 and pollutant-free emissions could be speeded up by the peak oil senario: as gasoline and diesel prices will rise, particularly in the medium term, alternative drives that are still expensive are becoming more interesting," said Thomas Weiss, Editor-in-Chief of AutoScout 24 magazine.

The other surprising result from this survey is that being fun to drive is seen as relatively unimportant. Seventy five percent said that it would be a factor in their future car, but it was ranked either fifth or sixth in importance by every country. 

What does this mean?

Automakers need to be very careful about how they implement future low emissions technology. While it is certainly a priority for buyers, it is not their highest priorirty. Consumers are not going to forget the Euro crisis and high unemployment of the last few years quickly. If a less expensive car meets their needs better than a car with better emissions, then they will opt for the cheaper car. 

This could be an explanation for why low-priced automakers are growing even during the Euro crisis. The sales of Korean automakers in Europe, which tend to have lower priced cars, have outpaced the growth of larger, more established automakers like PSAPeugeotPeugeotFrance, 1882 > present120 models
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and FiatFiatFiatItaly, 1899 > present159 models
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. The Koreans are still not near the sales volume of their more established peers, but HyundaiHyundaiHyundaiRepublic of Korea, 1967 > present79 models
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and KiaKiaKiaRepublic of Korea, 1944 > present52 models
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are growing in Europe while others falter. 

The desire for reasonably priced cars makes even more sense when considering that only 35% of buyers want their car to reflect their social standing. Basically that means that wealthy buyers do not want their cars to make them appear rich, and buyers of less expensive cars do not want the car to make them look poor. Younger buyers car more than older buyers if their car reflects their status (43.3% from 18-29 versus 26.4% from 50-65).

If automakers begin implementing these data, the expect to see more cars that are handsome but not showy from the outside but packed with technology and high quality materials on the inside. This is something that we are already starting to see in the latest mass produced hatchbacks. Take the seventh generation GolfVolkswagen Golf Gen.7 [VII]Volkswagen Volkswagen Golf Gen.7 [VII]Germany, 2012 > present446 versions
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for example. Buyers can not do much to the exterior of the car, but there three different infotainment display sizes and two different navigation systems. The top models even include a WLAN hotspot. Expect to see this continue with automakers offering a wider variety of infotainment options on future cars. 

In the coming weeks, we will look at what buyers want from their future mobility. Are people abandoning cars in favor of public transport and car sharing? We will also examing what electric cars need to appeal to buyers and what kind of technology to buyers want from their cars. Finally, we will examine the future of automotive design. 

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