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Airbag Technology Advances Attract Safety-Minded Consumers: J.D. Power Report

October 19, 2001

The next generation of airbag technology is high on the list of safety-related equipment desired by new-vehicle buyers, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2001 Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Feature Contenting Report(SM) released on Oct. 18. Safety-related features such as airbags and vehicle control systems continue to be among the most desired equipment consumers would like to see in new vehicles. Head protection/side curtain airbags are the most desired new feature, according to the report. These new airbags help reduce the effects of side-impact accidents by deploying from above the doors, covering glass areas. While only 7 percent of vehicles currently have these new airbags, 66 percent of new-vehicle buyers expressed a strong interest in seeing them in their next vehicles. Side impact airbags, which are currently in 28 percent of new vehicles, continue to increase in popularity, ranking highest among emerging features. An average of 77 percent of respondents want such airbags on their next car. "Drivers have come to rely on airbags as a major safety feature in their vehicles," said Neal Oddes, manager of product research at J.D. Power and Associates. "The next step in the evolution of airbags is to provide additional protection to occupants from side collisions. Side impact airbags and head protection/side curtain airbags give consumers added confidence that they will be protected in the event of an accident. The demand for these kinds of safety measures continues to be strong." Features that help drivers maintain control of their vehicles in emergency situations repeatedly rank in the top five most-desired emerging features by super segment. These include: stability control, designed to evenly distribute power and braking to wheels to prevent skidding and loss of control; brake assist, which helps the driver apply maximum braking power in emergency situations; and electronic traction control, which helps prevent wheelspin on slippery surfaces such as snow, ice or wet pavement. Such control features take the guesswork out of driver reaction and response through a computer-assisted operating system. For the first time in the history of the report, more emerging features than traditional features are analyzed, reflecting the high-tech desires of today's consumers. For example, while the demand for traditional cassette players in new vehicles is on the decline, there is high interest in new audio features such as MP3 playback capability and satellite radios. Consumers are also increasingly interested in emerging alternative power technologies such as hybrid engines that combine both fuel and electric powertrains. There are currently only two models with hybrid engine on the U.S. market -- the Honda Insight and Toyota Prius -- but 31 percent of new-vehicle owners desire this kind of environment-friendly technology in the future. This flies in the face of conventional wisdom, which has maintained that consumers don't really care about the environmental impact of their vehicles."Interest in hybrids is gaining momentum, and they are likely to be the next major feature to impact the automotive market," said Brian Walters, director of product research at J.D. Power and Associates. "Consumers are watching this emerging technology closely, and alternative power features could significantly change the landscape of the automotive industry." The 2001 APEAL Feature Contenting Report, now in its sixth year, examines the desirability of 45 traditional and emerging vehicle features in categories of vehicle safety, performance, comfort and convenience. More than 111,000 owners of new 2001 and early-release 2002 model-year vehicles were surveyed regarding features they currently have, which features they want on their next vehicles and how much they are willing to pay for these options. About J.D. Power and AssociatesHeadquartered in Agoura Hills, Calif., J.D. Power and Associates is a global marketing information services firm operating in key business sectors including market research, forecasting, consulting, training and customer satisfaction.The firm's quality and satisfaction measurements are based on actual responses from millions of consumers annually.J.D. Power and Associates can be accessed through the Internet at
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