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With over 2.7 billion smartphones on the planet and growing everyday— there will be a projected 5.5 billion smartphones by 2018— these truly personal computers are having major implications on how drivers and passengers behave in the car, and on consumer preferences when shopping for a new car. Indeed, perceptions and behaviors, particularly among Millennials and emerging new car intenders in China, are changing rapidly, according to a new exclusive IHS consumer research study which surveyed over 4,000 household respondents in the US, UK, Germany and China who plan on buying a new car.
IHS examined consumer behavior and attitudinal questions as it pertains to smartphone usage and integration in the car. What was discovered is a strong interest in integrating the smartphone via voice controls (35% strongly agreed and 75% any agreed) and to control one's smartphone through an in-vehicle touchscreen (29% strongly agreed and 70% any agreed). Millennials and Chinese new car intenders (Chinese respondents were more likely to be from the Millennial cohort) showed even stronger desire for these features.
“Still thinking about features in your next new car, could you please select up to 4 features you are interested in having in your next vehicle?”
“Which of the following statements, if any, about using your smartphone in your car do you agree with?”
Interested in having a touchscreen for entertainment, navigation, and vehicle information
I prefer controlling my smartphone with in-vehicle voice controls (Strongly Agree)
I prefer interacting and controlling my smartphone through an in-vehicle touchscreen (Strongly Agree)
I prefer to put my smartphone in a cradle that lets me see the screen as I drive (Strongly Agree)
I would prefer a radio or infotainment system that was designed by Apple or Google (Strongly Agree)
I often pair my smartphone to my car through USB (Strongly Agree)
Base: 4009 US, UK, DE, and Chinese new car intenders
Base: 3551 US, UK, DE, and Chinese new car intenders that own smartphones
Consumers are clearly looking for a safe and intuitive way to use their smartphones while they drive, with a little over a quarter of respondents strongly agreeing that they put their smartphone into a mountable cradle that lets them see their smartphone's screen as they drive. Some 67% of respondents said they either agreed or strongly agreed that they did this with their smartphones.
A majority of respondents were also interested in having a touchscreen in their next car, demonstrating the immense consumer acceptance of digital controls over tactile controls. IHS projects that display or navigation display based systems will increase from about 37% of the market to approximately 70% of the market by 2022, which shows that OEMs are clearly tuned in to consumer expectation.
A strong desire for an infotainment system that is designed by Apple or Google was clear as well, with more than a third of Chinese car shoppers and global Millennials strongly agreeing with this statement. Google and Apple are both making aggressive moves into infotainment systems, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Google is also making an aggressive play for infotainment OS through Android, with Android coming to infotainment systems at Honda and GM, among other OEMs.
There is some doubt among some that drivers will utilize Apple CarPlay or Android Auto because the protocol requires plugging their device through USB. IHS’s consumer research showed however that more than a third of Millennial and Chinese respondents strongly agreed with often plugging in their smartphones this way. Furthermore, 61% of all respondents said they either agreed or strongly agreed with pairing their smartphone through USB.
Speaking of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, there is a sizeable portion of new car intenders that have heard of either system, despite the fact that neither system has become mainstream on new car models yet.
A little under a third (30%) of global new car intenders have heard of Apple CarPlay. In China more than half of the respondents (57%) had heard of Apple CarPlay. The US showed stronger awareness (25%) when compared solely to the UK (18%) and Germany (18%). Among those who have heard of Apple CarPlay, some 60% are interested in having the feature on their next car.
More respondents have heard of Android Auto (34%) when compared to Apple CarPlay. Again, China (66%) shows very high awareness while the US (27%), UK (19%) and Germany (26%) do not. Android Auto doesn’t have as strong of interest among the people who have heard of it when compared to Apple CarPlay (58%), however.
“Some new vehicles will have the ability to replicate your smartphone system onto an in-vehicle display. Which of the following systems, if any, have you heard of?”
“If you have heard of this system, are you interested in having this feature in your next vehicle?”
Awareness Interested in having feature Apple CarPlay 30% 60% Android Auto 35% 58% MirrorLink 17% 46% Base: 4009 US, UK, DE, and Chinese new car intenders
While quite common in smartphones, PCs and smart TVs, over the air programming (OTA) is still only coming into form within the automotive space. Regardless, consumers have gotten used to having their systems, including navigational maps, seamlessly update. Some 44% of respondents wish their current infotainment systems had this feature. Fiat-Chrysler, Toyota, and Nissan have all announced software over the air platforms for app updates and other infotainment software updates.Base: 4009 US, UK, DE, and Chinese new car intenders
“Which of the following statements, if any, about built-in display systems do you agree with?”
I wish my [infotainment] system could be updated wirelessly so I didn't have to take it into a dealer for updates
Base: 2075 US, UK, DE and China respondents that owns vehicle with built in display
Today’s consumer expects a whole lot from their next vehicle. Along with the usual suspects (like styling, safety, reliability and fuel economy) consumers also want their next vehicle to have a cutting edge infotainment system that can seamlessly integrate with their smartphone. These consumer expectations are constantly evolving, too, as fast paced smartphone development cycles continue unabated. There is much more automakers and suppliers need to do in order to compete with Silicon Valley software developers: shortening development cycles, introducing rapid over-the air software updates, bringing more high-quality apps to in-vehicle systems, and developing an infotainment user interface that is as responsive and intuitive as those offered on the latest smartphones will be critical.
*About IHS Auto Tech Consumer Survey - Apps in the Car - US, UK, Germany & China - 2015
4009 respondents—split across the US, UK, Germany, and China—were surveyed online in their local language. IHS screened and filtered survey participants based on the following criteria: the respondent’s household had to already own a vehicle; the respondent had to plan to buy a brand new vehicle within the next 3 years; the respondent had to think they would be personally involved in the purchasing decision of the next vehicle, or be undecided. The fieldwork for the report was conducted in December 2014 (US & UK) and in January 2015 (China & Germany). While each survey overall was the same, certain questions had region specific answers, for instance when discussing brands or pricing. Some technology standards vary by country as well. The survey report, along with subsequent databases, are available for purchase.
Colin Bird is a Automotive Analyst for IHS, focusing on Software, Apps and Services in the car
Posted 16 March 2015

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