Report: Backup assist, blind spot detection hot; clean diesel not

J.D. Power and Associates asked 19,000 potential car buyers what they want and what they're willing to pay for. Safety is apparently on the minds of many, with blind spot detection and backup assist taking the top two spots. But once consumers were told blind spot detectors would cost as much as $500, the device fell to No. 4 on the list, while a $300 backup assist jumped to No. 1. And a majority (73%) put in-dash navigation as No. 3 in popularity, but when told they'd have to pay an estimated $1,800 for it, it falls way down to No. 18. Hear that OEMs? Cheap nav is on a bunch of people's wish list.

With gas prices at record highs, 72% of the respondents said they were "probably interested" in a hybrid powertrain and 23% were "definitely interested." When told the system would add $5,000 to the cost of their ride, though, hybrids fall from fifth place to No. 8. Disappointingly, clean diesel technology comes in at the very bottom of the list with only 37% saying they would probably be interested.

We spoke with Mike Marshall, Director of Automotive Emerging Technology at JD Power, who said he was disappointed in the clean diesel interest but not really surprised. "We knew it wouldn't do that well," Marshall said. "One of the biggest things working against diesel is where people are coming from."

Hit the jump to read the rest of our interview and to view the full press release by J.D. Power and Associates.

UPDATE: We spoke to Mike Marshall, not Chris, and the survey queried 19,000 people, not 1,900. We've updated the post to reflect the corrections.

[Source: J.D. Power]

To change the general public's idea that diesels are smoke-belching, noisy powerplants, Marshall said it will take a couple of things. "One thing is increased product offerings,". Another is an effort from OEMs and tier 1 suppliers to educate the public on the positives of clean diesel.

So what's the next big thing in automotive technology? Marshall said he sees safety retaining a top spot in shoppers' minds. "Collision mitigation will be big in the next five years," he said. "That's the culmination of blind spot, backup, lane departure used to avoid or prepare for an accident." But what he doesn't see is a clear winner in the powertrain war. "There's to much technology out there, too much R&D" to pick a winner."

Click on the above graphic for larger image.


WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif.: 24 June 2008 -Hybrid-electric powertrain technology in vehicles garners
particularly high interest among consumers both before and after the average market price ($5,000) is revealed,
according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2008 U.S. Automotive Emerging Technologies StudySM released

The study is designed to measure consumer familiarity, interest and purchase intent for emerging automotive
technologies both before and after an estimated market value is revealed.

The study finds that before the market price is revealed, 72 percent of consumers say they are
"definitely/probably" interested in having hybrid-electric technology in their next new vehicle. This marks a
considerable increase from the 2005 study, when 58 percent of consumers reported they were
"definitely/probably" interested in the technology. Additionally, after the average price point of $5,000 is revealed,
consumer interest remains relatively high at 46 percent in 2008.

"High consumer interest in hybrid-electric powertrain technology may be reflective of not only rising gas prices
but also a heightened effort among consumers to be more environmentally conscious," said Mike Marshall,
director of automotive emerging technologies at J.D. Power and Associates. "Clean diesel technology, however,
garners relatively low interest in comparison. One explanation for this may derive from a lack of education with
the technology. Many consumers cannot differentiate between clean diesel and traditional diesel fuel-which in
the past had a negative connotation with unpleasant vehicle emissions. As consumers become more educated in
the benefits of clean diesel through increased product offers launching later this year, interest in the technology
may increase."

Prior to revealing the average market price, the study also finds that consumer interest is highest for blind spot
detection (76%); backup assist (74%); and navigation systems (73%) before the average market price is revealed.
After revealing the average market price, interest is highest in backup assist (68%); active cornering headlight
systems (65%); and wireless connectivity systems (53%).

"Wireless connectivity, in particular, makes a considerable jump in the rankings after the average price point of
$200 is revealed," said Marshall. "Consumer interest is likely heightened by the fact that more states may prohibit
the use of cell phones while driving. Wireless connectivity will potentially become a necessity rather than a
luxury as time goes on."

The study also finds the following key patterns:
• Among consumers who indicate that they are not interested in a rear-seat entertainment system, more than
30 percent indicate such because they do not transport passengers in their rear seats on a regular basis.
• Among consumers who say they are not interested in a collision mitigation system-which is an
automated safety system that monitors external conditions around the vehicle and warns the driver using
visual, physical and audible cues of a potential collision before automatically applying the braking system,
tightening seat belts and moving the driver's seat into the optimal crash position-one of four say they
either do not want to give up control of the vehicle, or that they are waiting for the technology to improve
before purchasing it.

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