Serves the Commercial Small Fleet Market of 10 – 50 Vehicles

Forget In-Car Gadgets; Let Us Buy at Motor Shows, Car Owners Tell Manufacturers: Study

December 22, 2003

United States car buyers are more interested in safety options than electronic gadgetry like voice recognition systems and would like to be able to buy cars at motor shows, a new survey indicates.New-car buyer Web site Autobytel asked site visitors to comment on the directions they think carmakers should take (and which strategies they might want to reconsider) in 2004.Shoppers attribute little value to the new generation of technology gadgets that are hitting the market, with very few indicating that they'd pay more for these (often expensive) features. Only 9 percent, for example, said they'd pay extra for a DVD navigation system or GPS mapping system.Only 6.3 percent, meanwhile, said they would pay extra for a mobile entertainment system, while a mere 5.9 percent said they'd shell out more for a voice recognition system.Consumers place a high premium on safety features, with 31 percent indicating they'd pay more for features like side air bags, side curtain air bags, and head restraint systems.Survey respondents indicated a strong desire to be able to buy, as well as browse, at motor shows. When asked whether attendees should be able to place an order to buy a vehicle at a motor show, nearly half (46 percent) responded emphatically, "Yes! I can't believe they haven't thought of that."When asked what the OEMs' top priority should be when they build a new vehicle, 41 percent replied "better reliability" and 24 percent said "fuel efficiency." In general, hybrids and sports cars topped consumers' category wish lists, with 25 percent indicating that they'd most like to see more sports cars, and 19 percent signalling that they'd prefer to see more hybrids. (Only 13 percent, notably, said they'd like to see more SUVs.)The responses, however, played out differently across different manufacturers. For example, most respondents would like to see Ford build a family wagon, while most would like to see Honda build a truck.In terms of styling, 70 percent of respondents favored the "sleek, futuristic look" of the Chrysler Crossfire, Nissan Murano, new Toyota Prius and Infiniti FX 45. The boxy/utilitarian/Gen-Y look (e.g. Honda Element, Toyota Scion), on the other hand, received a cool reception, with only 6 percent indicating that they like this design direction best.Consumers give the green light to some of the upcoming U.S. motor show season's most highly anticipated debuts, including the Saab 9-2X crossover and the Mini Cooper convertible. Shoppers are particularly excited about the new Mazda Miata (74 percent said, "yes, it's time") and the new Honda Odyssey (72 percent concurred).
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