Vehicle owners continue to show interest in self-driving technology despite COVID-19

An Ipsos Auto Global Study reveals new vehicle owners in US, China, EURO5 and Brazil desire autonomous functionality in their next vehicle.

The author(s)

  • John Kiser Senior Vice President of Automotive & Mobility
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We have been through more than four months of the COVID-19 pandemic, and we are getting signals of a “new normal.” Many employers have encouraged their staff to work from home if possible, reducing the need to commute daily to an office. However, vehicle owners still have an interest in the latest technology and are willing to try it. We see gains in experience (driven + ridden) with semi-autonomous driving between 2019 and 2020 in each of the four key regions.


Autonomous interest is strongest in China and Brazil, where consumers have the most semi-autonomous feature experience. Interest in autonomous among new vehicle owners has remained stable for the key regions between 2019 and 2020.


Now, many countries have reduced restrictions and their economies have responded. The automotive sector saw an extreme bounce in retail sales in both May and June after a significant drop in March and April. As we continue through 2020, retail sales will be a key focus as supply continues to decline and with the uncertainty of the recent spikes in COVID-19 cases. 

In Ipsos’ newly released Module 1 Mobility Navigator Auto Global Study, we focused on key questions to monitor and track the progress of the recovery from COVID-19 through 2020. Among vehicle owners, the decrease in vehicle purchase intention in June is not as dramatic as early reports have indicated for the U.S. The decline in U.S. consumer demand is on par with China, which is experiencing a sales rebound that is expected to happen in the U.S. as well. There appears to be more softness in consumer demand in both the EURO5 and Brazil based on the latest information from June.


The main reason for continued vehicle demand is the personal safety and protection a vehicle can provide. Interestingly, we see refusal to let the pandemic affect vehicle purchase plans as a second key reason.


COVID-19 is expanding the definition of vehicle safety with growing interest in a “safe environment”.

Before the coronavirus, consumers showed great interest in crash prevention (e.g., ADAS, warnings, alerts, etc.) and personal security (connectivity, cybersecurity, etc.) features, enhancing standard crash protection features.

Now, consumers want their vehicle to also provide a “safe environment” that is as touchless as possible and includes:

  • air filtration
  • antibacterial surfaces
  • methods to disinfect the interior

This enables the consumer to be in control of the vehicle to make the interior “clean and safe.”

Safety has always been an important factor in automotive decision making, but clearly that definition is changing and increasing in importance. When striving to broaden the appeal of autonomous, a takeaway for auto manufacturers is to be very aware of the average consumer’s mindset as they are increasingly focused on safety. You can appeal to them by focusing on the safety benefits achieved with the accident avoidance features of autonomous driving mode and advanced driver assist features.

In the post-COVID environment, there is limited funding to invest in new technology by the auto manufacturers. However, there is opportunity for auto manufacturers to appeal consumers’ desire for new technology if those benefits are communicated as “safety” and enable an auto manufacturer to be known for the latest technology such as autonomous or self-driving.

The Ipsos Mobility Navigator will provide further insights through 2020, which automotive insiders can immediately use to capitalize on new consumer behaviors such as vehicle preferences, shift in public transportation/riding hailing usage, preferences on how to purchase a vehicle plus their expectations at a dealer to navigate the post-pandemic world.

Look for our next installment when we focus on electrification in September 2020. We will again measure the impact of COVID-19 on vehicle and mobility usage.

About the Study

For this survey, Ipsos interviewed a total of 22,000 new vehicle owners aged 18-74 in the United States of America, China, Japan, Brazil, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Great Britain, Russia and India.

Data collected are weighted so that each country’s sample composition best reflects the demographic profile of the adult population according to the country’s most recent census data. Data collected are also weighted to give each country an equal weight in the total “global” sample. Online surveys can be taken as representative of the general working age population in France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, Spain, and the United States. Online samples in Brazil, mainland China and India are more urban, educated, and/or affluent than the general population and the results should be viewed as reflecting the views of a more “connected” population.

Additional data available through a subscription to the offering. See the link below for more information.

For more information on this news release, please contact:

John Kiser
Senior Vice President
U.S., Automotive & Mobility, Ipsos
+1 925 577 3743

About Ipsos

Ipsos is the world’s third largest market research company, present in 90 markets and employing more than 18,000 people.

Our passionately curious research professionals, analysts and scientists have built unique multispecialist capabilities that provide true understanding and powerful insights into the actions, opinions and motivations of citizens, consumers, patients, customers or employees. We serve more than 5000 clients across the world with 75 business solutions.

Founded in France in 1975, Ipsos is listed on the Euronext Paris since July 1st, 1999. The company is part of the SBF 120 and the Mid-60 index and is eligible for the Deferred Settlement Service (SRD).

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The author(s)

  • John Kiser Senior Vice President of Automotive & Mobility