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What innovations should car manufacturers be focusing on?

Why security, well-being, gratification and freedom are the cornerstones of consumer needs

As developments in technology stretch the boundaries of what is possible, how can the automotive industry understand what it is that consumers actually need and desire? In our Connected Car study, a major survey of 5,800 drivers in Brazil, China, Germany, Russia, UK and US, we used our signature cornerstone framework to map consumer benefits and uncover the drivers of consumer needs.

In our work with consumers and brands worldwide, we have learned that understanding how peoples’ needs and benefits will evolve is critical to uncovering future opportunities. Our cornerstone approach has identified four overarching motivators in the automotive market: security; well-being; gratification and freedom. Together these are the drivers of consumer choice.

Security and freedom are paramount

In order to understand drivers’ needs, we ascertained their reaction to a series of needs and benefits within these four areas. Our research showed clearly that security and freedom are paramount for drivers globally. It is these that are the most dominant drivers of choice and manufacturers should focus on innovations that deliver these benefits.

Drivers told us resoundingly (86%) that they wanted to feel “kept safe”, along with value for money (87%), another top criteria when making a choice about car purchase. Lifestyle benefits such as gratification and well-being are entirely secondary concerns in comparison, although with benefits indexing between 52% and 77%, it would be wrong to write them off as being peripheral.

When we look at Security, Gratification, Well-being and Freedom as an index, we can see clearly that safety and security, value for money, durability and fuel efficiency come out as the primary areas of need. The latest technology, fit with personality, and relaxation are less important, but these should not be overlooked.

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‘Lifestyle’ benefits should not be overlooked

While security and freedom are, without a doubt, the two most important drivers of choice at a global level, there are significant regional variations in terms of how drivers perceive individual benefits. In Russia, China and Brazil a much greater emphasis is placed on well-being and gratification. This trait is particularly common amongst Russian drivers who typically over index in these areas. Notably, it is the Chinese who place the most importance on high performance while Russians crave the latest technology and fine craftsmanship. In contrast, Germans place the least emphasis on a car reflecting their personality. Well-being is also a significant driver of choice for consumers in Russia, China and Brazil, significantly more so than their peers in the UK, US and Germany.

The gulf between the different countries in the study is particularly pronounced when it comes to protecting drivers’ health. Respondents in the UK attribute very little importance to it, whereas it is of significant concern to drivers in both Brazil and China.

Value for money is the bottom line

While respondents in some countries place greater emphasis on a number of lifestyle factors and expect a car to provide a certain degree of personal gratification, the overriding concerns for drivers worldwide are safety and economics. Most notably, the only criteria on which there is full consensus is value for money. This is where opinions from drivers across the globe converge – and the factor that automotive companies should be most focused on.

The way drivers make decisions about their choice of car involves a complex matrix of needs. The data clearly shows that further safety enhancements will have significant global appeal to consumers, but there are a number of other, more lifestyle based motivations, especially for drivers in Russia, Brazil and China, that must not be ignored. The challenge for car manufacturers is to understand the interplay of influences that exist in different territories and by demographic and create compelling, commercially viable propositions that meet the needs of each market.

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Frank Haertl is Global Lead Automotive for GfK.

GfK’s Connected Car Report: Download our free preview report or get the full insights in our global report, which is available to purchase now. It contains detailed market-by-market analysis and brand specific insight. For your definitive guide to the road ahead or any further information, contact us.

For more about our offerings, visit our Automotive pages.

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