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

A global Ipsos study reveals new vehicle owners desire for autonomous functionality in their next vehicle in Europe’s top five markets, US, China and Brazil.

The author(s)

  • Chris Matthews Client Organisation
  • John Kiser Clinics & Mobility Labs
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As we move into the second half to the year, there are signals of a ‘new normal’ appearing. 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. 

semi-autonomous feature experienceWe have found an increased number of new car buyers claim to have experienced semi-autonomous driving (driven or ridden) between 2019 and 2020 in each of the four key regions surveyed, including a +4pt uplift in Europe’s top five markets, up from 16% to 20%. Interest in autonomous driving is strongest in China and Brazil however, where consumers have the most semi-autonomous feature experience. 

In Europe’s top five markets 32% of new car buyers claim to be interested in autonomous driving features. This is in line with the US (28%), but well below that of Brazil (61%) and China (77%), again where interest is stronger.

autonomous feature interest

Many countries have now reduced restrictions and their economies have responded. The automotive sector saw a strong bounce in retail sales in both May and June after a significant drop in March and April. 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. 

In Europe’s top five markets, overall intention to buy a new car has fallen, with the big five markets down 7pts from 42% pre-COVID-19 to 35% based on the latest information from June. This decline in consumer demand is stronger than the US (4%) and China (3%) but has not fallen as sharply as in Brazil (9%). As we continue through 2020, retail sales will be a key focus as supply continues to decline and the uncertainty surrounding a second wave of  COVID-19 cases.

vehicle intenders before

With one in three consumers in   Europe’s top five markets still keen to buy, it suggests that the market may not be as depressed as had been feared. The main reason for continued vehicle demand is the safety and protection a personal vehicle can provide, rather than travelling via public transport. Interestingly, we see refusal to let the pandemic affect vehicle purchase plans as a second key reason.

purchase interest

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

Before the coronavirus, consumers showed greatest 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 hygienic  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 rising in importance. When striving to broaden the appeal of autonomous, a takeout for auto manufacturers is to be very aware of the average consumer’s mindset as they are increasingly focused on this now broader definition of 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-19 environment, there is limited funding to invest in new technology by the auto manufacturers. However, there is opportunity for auto manufacturers to appeal to 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  provides further insights through 2020, which automotive insiders can immediately use to capitalize on new consumer behaviours 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 instalment 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 is available through a subscription to the offering. Download our impact study here.

The author(s)

  • Chris Matthews Client Organisation
  • John Kiser Clinics & Mobility Labs

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