Infotainment Features are Top Consideration Among Americans Shopping for a New Vehicle

NEW YORK, August 5, 2008 – According to a new study released today by GfK Automotive, a division of GfK Custom Research North America, five of the top ten features consumers seek when shopping for their next vehicle are Infotainment-related, including USB ports, hands-free calling and portable music adaptors.  The 2008 Advanced Automotive Features Study also reveals that as pump prices reach $5.25 per gallon, a majority of Americans say they will have already down-sized their vehicle or will consider purchasing a more-fuel efficient vehicle as their next automobile.

"The success of personal music devices such as the iPod has influenced how consumers think, and there have been parallel efforts across product categories to apply and evolve this consumer-centric technology into vehicle communications, video, news and navigation systems,” explains Jeff Zupancic, Vice President of Product Development at GfK Automotive. "While some of these features are inexpensive, demand for them is strong because they represent technologies that enable consumers to connect the driving experience with other aspects of their lives.”

High Gas Prices "Fuel” Interest in Gas Saving Features
Sky-rocketing fuel costs are feeding a consumer vehicle "down-sizing” mindset. In fact, at an average price of $4.00 per gallon, 30% of respondents would change the size and type of vehicle they plan to purchase while a full three quarters of Americans would have already down-sized or consider downsizing when fuel hits $5.25 per gallon. Only 18% indicate that the price of fuel does not affect their vehicle purchase decision. Luxury vehicle owners are also reacting to higher fuel prices as four in ten say they fill up with lower-grade fuel despite the manufacturers’ recommendation to use premium fuel for their automobile.

Increased fuel economy is a key factor in new vehicle purchases. In 2008, 38% of new vehicle intenders indicate they would sacrifice vehicle performance for better fuel economy. To compare, when the average price per gallon of fuel was $2.28 in 2005, less than one-quarter (23%) of Americans were willing to make this trade-off.

Alternative powertrains represent technology that can make significant improvements in fuel economy and hedge against future fuel price uncertainty. Already on the market for five years, hybrids have the highest familiarity among alternative powertrains, with nearly three-quarters of new vehicle intenders expressing at least some knowledge of the technology.  Additionally, almost six in ten would consider a hybrid powertrain for their next new vehicle at an added cost of $3,000. Other alternative powertrains, such as a Clean Diesel and Extended Range Plug-in Hybrid, are each considered by nearly a third of new vehicle intenders.

"Manufacturers who are developing these technologies need to balance the pricing of these powertrains with the benefits afforded to vehicle buyers as consideration can be hampered by steep option pricing,” continues Zupancic.

In addition to alternative powertrains, new vehicle intenders also express considerable interest in "add-on” fuel-economy enhancing features such as variable displacement engines (i.e., cylinder shut-off), next generation turbochargers and engine start/stop systems. Of over 100 features evaluated in the study, both Hybrid powertrain and variable displacement engines appear in the list of top 20 features that Americans seek when shopping for a new vehicle.

Adds Zupancic, "Companies that develop cost-effective technologies to improve fuel economy, while also providing the infotainment personalization features that American car buyers are coming to expect, will gain an edge in today’s increasingly competitive marketplace.”

GfK Advanced Automotive Features Study Enhanced
for 2008
First launched in 1987, the GfK Advanced Automotive Features Study was updated in 2008 to provide enhanced metrics to track consumer attitudes of more than 125 advanced automotive features and technologies. The survey was fielded in May 2008 among 5,900 Americans who are considering purchasing a new vehicle.


About GfK Automotive
For more than 25 years, GfK Automotive, a division of GfK Custom Research North America, has been the preeminent provider of product, brand and consumer research, and consulting to the global automotive industry.  Counting every major European, North American and Far Eastern carmaker among its customers, GfK Automotive delivers integrated information and insight to every stakeholder involved in supporting a product's success throughout its life cycle.

GfK Automotive – 2008 GfK Advanced Automotive Features Study Click for a larger view