Consumers’ appetite for self-driving vehicles lags the automotive industry’s pace of investment in advanced vehicle technology, according to the “2019 Deloitte Global Automotive Consumer Study.”
Consumer trust in autonomous vehicles (AVs) appears to be stalling. In the U.S., 50 percent of survey respondents do not believe AVs will be safe, nearly the same as last year’s 47 percent. That is drastically different from consumer sentiment in 2017, when 74 percent voiced concerns about these vehicles’ safety. Other markets saw similar plateauing, with the share of consumers in China, Japan and South Korea who believe AVs will not be safe decreasing modestly; and Indian and German consumers both showing slight increases in their distrust.
“Autonomous vehicles have begun to enter the real world in pilot testing and have consequently encountered real world challenges,” said Craig Giffi, vice chairman, Deloitte LLP, and U.S. automotive sector leader.
“A series of high-profile incidents may have contributed to the plateau in consumer trust in this year’s study, but there will likely be a longer-term trend toward gradual acceptance,” says Giffi. “Even so, consumers have a much higher bar for acceptance of fully-autonomous vehicles than for driver assistance safety technology. Along with today’s consumer skepticism, the industry needs to thoughtfully factor into its plans the long capital investment cycle that will be required to bring flawless autonomous vehicle technology into the mainstream. This includes elusive business models for generating ROI and it’s all combined with the likely increase in regulatory oversight that is on the horizon.”
Deciding factors in choosing advanced mobility options
Consumers now have more choices than ever before with regards to mobility, whether they are choosing a car to buy or lease or simply deciding how to get from point A to B. The plethora of choices brings an array of new decisions for consumers:
Ride-hailing irregularities: In 2017, 23 percent of U.S. consumers used ride-hailing at least once a week, and another 22 percent used it occasionally. Fast forward to the latest study, and the percentage of regular users cuts in half to 12 percent, while the proportion of occasional users increases twofold to 46 percent. Occasional ride-hailers follow a similar path in India and China, though both countries saw substantial growth in the volume of occasional ride-hailers, growing from 85 to 90 percent in India between 2017 and 2019; and 75 to 83 percent in China over the same period.
A generational divide: Younger consumers are more likely to question whether vehicle ownership is a necessity than older generations. Japan leads the pack, where 60 percent of Generations Y/Z say ride hailing makes them question whether they need to own a vehicle, followed by 53 percent for Gen X and 45 percent of Baby Boomers. In the U.S., the number is 46 percent for U.S. Gen Y/Z consumers, down 20 percentage points from 64 percent in 2017.
Convenience over savings: The majority (56 percent) of Americans are not interested in ridesharing services — such as professional micro-buses and other similar multi-rider options — and 47 percent of German consumers prefer to use their vehicles daily. Using multiple modes of transportation in one trip is largely an occasional undertaking in the U.S., where 39 percent of U.S. consumers report they never combine different modes in a single trip.
Along with new transportation options, connectivity has unlocked an array of new choices for consumers purchasing vehicles, many of whom are divided:
Top priorities: Interest in connected features such as traffic congestion tracking and road-safety alerts is universally high, with 75 percent and 71 percent of U.S. consumers seeking these features, respectively. This strongly aligns with what 43 percent of U.S. consumers say is the most important aspect of mobility: getting to their destination in the least amount of time.
Costs and benefits of connectivity: Less than half of surveyed U.S. consumers (47 percent) are sold on the idea of connectivity, but opinions vary globally. Twice as many people in China (79 percent) and India (76 percent) agree that increased connectivity will lead to substantial benefits than in Japan (36 percent) and Germany (35 percent).
Pros and cons of data collection and privacy: Connected-vehicle sensors can track everything from powertrain performance and operational statistics to geolocation information and occupant wellness. Roughly two-thirds (63 percent) of U.S. consumers are concerned about biometric data being captured via a connected vehicle and shared with external parties; 40 percent of people in China and Japan say the same.
Reluctance to pay more for options: Once consumers are sold on a feature, they are not necessarily sold on the price. One-third (33 percent) of U.S. consumers would be unwilling to pay more for a connected vehicle, and a slightly larger portion (42 percent) would only pay up to $500 more for this functionality. German consumers feel similarly, with 40 percent willing to pay €600 more (approximately US$680). While a higher share of Japanese consumers (72 percent) are willing to pay extra, their upper limit was only ¥50,000 (approximately US$450).
“Connected, electrified, and autonomous vehicles offer tremendous value for society, but consumers will be slow to adopt these advanced technologies at scale until there is clear and undisputed improvement in safety, cost, convenience, and superior customer experience from a trusted brand,” said Joe Vitale, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited and global automotive sector leader.
Who are consumers rooting for?
As consumers look ahead to the automotive future, they may not always associate emerging technology with traditional car manufacturers. In the U.S., the number of consumers who said they trust traditional original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to bring AV technology to market continues to slip, falling from 47 percent in 2018 to 39 percent in 2019. Even in Germany, where trust in OEMs has traditionally been fairly solid, this proportion has dropped rapidly from 51 percent in 2017 to 33 percent in 2019.
With an ongoing lack of trust in the private sector, consumers are looking to governments to increase regulation. An overwhelming percentage of consumers in most countries indicated they wanted “significant oversight,” including 56 percent of U.S. consumers.
Hybrid electric vehicles still struggle for attention
People around the globe now see electrified powertrains as viable options, but electric vehicles (EVs) still face some bumps in the road ahead. In the U.S., 29 percent would prefer a nontraditional powertrain, up from 20 percent last year — including hybrid, battery or other alternative — for their next vehicle. A low fuel price environment coupled with relaxed emissions standards and fewer available rebates will likely keep EV adoption rates contained in the U.S. market.
Interest in Asian countries is far higher than that of the U.S. China is in the lead, where 65 percent of people surveyed would prefer an alternative powertrain in their next vehicle, followed by Japan (59 percent), Korea (43 percent) and India (39 percent).
Adoption of EVs will likely play out differently in other regions. Stronger policies to address pollution concerns and foreign oil reliance in China may encourage faster EV adoption, while European countries including Norway, Britain, France, and the Netherlands have announced plans to ban the sale of conventional gas- and diesel-fueled vehicles over the next two to three decades. While both regions may be poised for increased EV adoption, change will not be immediate. This is because traditional vehicles currently make up the bulk of cars on the road, and these cars boast a life expectancy of more than 10 years. In North America, adoption is likely to lag due to a low fuel-price environment, relaxed-emissions standards and a tighter tax-rebate policy.
About the Global Automotive Consumer Study
Deloitte recently surveyed over 25,000 consumers in September and October 2018 across 20 countries around the world to explore consumer preferences regarding a variety of critical issues impacting the automotive sector. The overall goal of the study is to answer important questions that can help companies prioritize and better position their business strategies and investments.