From Heated Front Seats, Blind-Spot Warnings—Apple CarPlay & Android Auto on Buyer’s Lists

AutoPacific’s latest Future Attribute Demand Study (FADS) has indicated a sharp growing interest in certain vehicle features while others have fallen on the wayside. This year, 88,998 new vehicle acquires were surveyed via AutoPacific’s 2021 New Vehicle Satisfaction Survey (NVSS) to determine what features today are hot, and which ones are not.

2020 was a turbulent year for many consumers, a time shaken by the onset of a global pandemic and its still-lingering side effects. The auto industry itself wasn’t immune to the chaos. Health concerns rose while consumer confidence plummeted as lockdowns began. Dealerships saw drastically fewer (if any) foot traffic and vehicle assembly plants went dark. But people were still buying and selling cars albeit at far less of a rate than in 2019 and through different mediums this time around like Carvana, Vroom, along with local dealerships and automakers trying various at-home services like contactless test drives.

Amidst this shift in consumer behavior, priorities, and preferences, we’ve seen four features in our 2021 FADS climb their way into the top ten list from out of the lower ranks including front and rear parking sensors, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, ventilated/cooled front seats, and LED front exterior accent lighting.

In looking over the list of the top ten most demanded features, heated front seats remains the number one item on consumer wish lists with 66% wanting this on their next new vehicle followed by blind-spot information system (commonly referred to as blind spot monitoring) at number 2 with 60% demand.

Notably, of all ten driver assistance features or ADAS surveyed in the 2021 FADS, demand is the highest for blind-spot information systems, followed by lane departure warning at number five. Consumer demand for other key ADAS systems is noticeably lower like active lane keeping assist (45%), forward automatic emergency braking (41%), and rear cross-traffic alert (38%). This difference may be attributed to the lack of consumer awareness of the benefits of these systems. For example, systems like blind spot monitoring and lane departure warning are often activated much more frequently than systems like forward automatic emergency braking. “When consumers hear about a vehicle’s ability to stop itself automatically, they are often wary.  When they experience it saving them from committing a driving error, they clearly see the benefit,” says Dan Hall, Vice President of AutoPacific. As automakers continue to roll out many of these ADAS systems as standard-issue on their products or bundle them together in further options packages, and more consumers learn how crucial these pieces of life-saving tech are, AutoPacific predicts demand will rise.

Two of the hottest features most in demand by new vehicle shoppers this year include Apple CarPlay/Android Auto and LED front exterior accent lighting. The latter jumped 26 spots to the number eight on our top ten list for 2021, likely a result of more and more mainstream vehicles bypassing traditional, simple headlamps and front fascias for more intricate, flashy LED accents adorning the headlights, grille, and even by way of illuminated front emblems like Mercedes-Benz’s glowing star. “Once the mark of luxury brands only, LED exterior lighting is enhancing the designs of vheiles in every segment and price point.  In addition to being a design enhancement, LEDs help visibility and have a long life,” says Hall.

Another feature we expect to continue to grow in demand like wildfire, is Apple CarPlay/Android Auto. This popular infotainment feature is found on nearly every new vehicle on sale today, oftentimes as standard-issue, and serves as a great way for drivers and passengers to link their smartphone to the vehicle’s infotainment system to project things like navigation, messages, and music or podcast streaming. Younger shoppers including millennials and tech-savvy Gen X individuals will only fuel the surge in demand as more and more consumers realize the future is in tethering a smartphone directly to the vehicle.

Survey respondents are individuals who purchased their new vehicle outright, financed it, or leased it and who have completed the survey section regarding their next vehicle. The FADS study closely analyzes the characteristics consumers prefer in their next vehicle and gauges demand for over 100 specific features.