New semi-autonomous tech offer untapped opportunity for growth


The surging consumer appetite for increasingly sophisticated automotive technologies offer a huge opportunity for growth, but the use of complicated marketing jargon, unclear pricing and a lack of frontline education means retailers and manufacturers are missing out.

That’s the key finding from the seventh edition of the Auto Trader Market Report, which found that brands that explain the technology, such as semi-autonomous features, see higher conversion, higher prices and higher return visits for both maintenances and for next car purchases.

The research revealed that nearly a third (31%) of the 3,000 consumers surveyed for the Report have at least one semi-autonomous feature in their current vehicle (an average of 2.1 features). 80% said they would pay extra for semi-autonomous systems in their next car, and more than half (51%) would be more likely to buy from the same brand again because of these features; this figure increases to 57% for both men and people aged under 35.

However, despite the opportunity to upsell and build invaluable brand loyalty, just 35% of those surveyed said the features were clearly explained to them during the sales process, and only a third (33%) received a demonstration. Underlining the missed opportunity this represents, upon receiving an explanation in the showroom, 72% of car buyers said they were more likely to buy the car, 72% to buy the car from that specific retailer, and 59% would be more likely to upgrade the specification of the car.

The long-term impact of greater frontline education is significant too. 74% were more likely to return to the same dealer for maintenance, 73% would return to buy their next car from them, and 73% would buy the same brand of car.

Nathan Coe, Auto Trader’s Chief Financial Officer, and Chief Operating Officer commented: “The objective of our biannual Market Report is to identify valuable opportunities for the industry, which often requires us to cut through the hype to get the genuine view of today’s car buyer. Our research clearly highlights that at a time of political and economic uncertainty, rapidly evolving technology offers an exciting opportunity to not only drive car sales but to also build long-lasting relationships with customers. The more we can enhance the buying and driving experience by focusing on technology that genuinely meets consumer needs, the more we can unlock this desire and encourage consumers to change their car more frequently.”

It’s not just the front end of retail where consumers are being put off: the use of complicated marketing jargon and acronyms is also an issue. In fact, when presented with the various manufacturing brand names for their incredibly sophisticated semi-autonomous features, the vast majority of car buyers either miscategorized its function or simply failed to appreciate its advanced capabilities.

With car buyers either unaware or unsure of these features, it’s very unlikely they’ll request them when visiting a dealership. Accordingly, of those car owners who have an autonomous feature in their vehicle, less than half (45%) said they actively sought it out when they made their last purchase.

Cason Grover, Hyundai’s Senior Group Marketing Manager, Vehicle Technology Planning, offered his view on how some brands are adapting their marketing approach: “The myriad of systems now available on new vehicles is confusing to the consumer and this confusion is exacerbated by each manufacturer has its own terminology for their respective autonomous safety systems. That’s why when we launched our SmartSense driver assistance system, we made the conscious decision to explain the system in terms the consumer can understand i.e. the functions rather than the system name. This approach also needs to be taken in the way that we as an OEM communicate these systems to dealers, how the dealer explains to the consumer and even down to how the technology itself communicates to the driver. By successfully implementing this we anticipate that consumer trust in these systems will rapidly grow and lead to greater uptake.”

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