Consumers want more for their cars

(iStock)The collision between the economy and car companies has caused one unpleasant pile up.  Indicators for consumption and growth are not very pretty.  It is important to note that despite some of the macro gloom, there are still signs of a growing future.

According to a report prepared by ABI, OEM’s continue to plan for future iterations and advancements for telematics services.  Global penetration rates in new cars will reach 12% in 2010 and 43% by 2014.  “With GM’s OnStar and Ford’s SYNC to be joined by telematics solutions from Toyota and Chrysler launching later this year, the US remains the most competitive market,” says ABI Research practice director Dominique Bonte. As scale and affordability push prices down and as technology adoption rates by consumers continue to grow, their inclination for in-car solutions will grow.  Features similar to GM’s “OnStar” which offer safety and security assets along with diagnostics continue to show strength.  Increasingly however consumers want the technology envelope in the car to open up. 

As I have been saying for some time now, auto companies and technology providers are looking at this technology through a very utilitarian prism.  These are not passengers … these are not drivers …. These are consumers!!!  The phone started off utilitarian and consumer behavior and consumers demand for more features pushed text messaging, gaming, video, etc.

For auto and tech companies to think that the future is in a small screen in the center of the dash is crazy.  For auto and tech companies to think that because consumers can gain access to search and content on their phones is the way of the future is insane.  When studying economics we were taught that consumers prefer more to less.  When working at Disney it was all about the consumer experience.  Consumer will want and demand connected infotainment such as off-board navigation, online local search, concierge services, and Internet access.  People will want to share content and information with their home network or their accounts in the clouds.  They won’t want to go across country staring into an iPod when they could have a 4G screen.

There is no question that the car of today is serving the minimal, utilitarian needs of the consumer.  Cost constraints to install the ultimate system when consumers want things for free doesn’t help. It will take bold action by government, infrastructure companies, industry, content provider and marketers to move the needle.  For now, the expansion of on-board navigation systems and GPS through Location Based applications will certainly help to expand consumer use of in-car assets.  Marketers should continue to pursue singular or bundled opportunities to drive use and adoption.