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2018 Global Automotive Consumer Study: BE Insights

Consumers are warming up to autonomous vehicles

Belgian consumers have a brighter outlook on the safety of autonomous vehicles, while some concerns remain. Many people agree they would trust autonomous vehicles with a proven track record for safety and are looking to traditional car manufacturers to bring fully autonomous vehicles to market. While consumers appear more apt to embrace emerging technology in the form of autonomous vehicles, many are brushing off newer powertrain options in favour of traditional engines.

Safety first

Significantly fewer people in the 2018 study feel that autonomous cars will not be safe. Only half (50 percent) of Belgian consumers, compared to 69 percent in 2017, hold this view. This dramatic decrease highlights that overall acceptance of autonomous technology has grown rapidly in a short time.

Age impact

Younger generations are more accepting of self-driving technology. Only 49 percent of pre/boomers would be willing to use a vehicle that could drive itself if price and safety were not an issue. Not surprisingly, Gen X (55 percent) and Gen Y/Z (64 percent) are more interested in autonomous cars, particularly as they free up time to do other things.

Building trust

Fifty-eight percent of consumers feel better about riding in a fully self-driving vehicle offered by a brand they trust, highlighting the importance of brand trust. Just over half (54 percent) of consumers would feel better about autonomous vehicle technology if there were government regulations and an established safety record. Consumers favour traditional car manufacturers to bring fully autonomous vehicles to market. In Belgium, nearly half of consumers (48 percent) would put their trust in a traditional car manufacturer, compared to roughly one-fifth that would trust a technology company (21 percent) or a new-to-market autonomous vehicle maker (27 percent).

Powertrain preferences

Most Belgian consumers (64 percent) still favour either a gasoline or diesel engine and only 23 percent said they would choose a hybrid engine in their next vehicle. Gasoline remains the preferred option for Belgian consumers (43) while diesel drops to 21 percent. In Belgium, the percentage of consumers that is not willing to pay more for autonomous or alternative powertrain technologies is 45 and 55 percent, respectively. For three-fifths of consumers, driving range (33 percent) or cost/price premium (28 percent) are the greatest concerns for all battery-powered electric vehicles. If consumers can get past the upfront price premium, 34 percent would consider an electric vehicle for its lower ongoing operating costs. Lower emissions/environmental responsibility ranks second (27 second) and rebates/tax incentives third (22 percent).

Purchase habits

Vehicle brands have a relatively short time to connect with consumers and influence the purchase decision as most consumers start researching vehicles three months prior to the purchase. Thirty-nine percent spend one month to less than three months reviewing their options, while forty-three percent make a decision in less than a month. The dealership salesperson has a significant impact on the purchase decision. Twenty-five percent of consumers rated the salesperson as having a major impact on the purchase decision of their current vehicle. Sixty-nine percent of consumers visited the dealership that sold them their vehicle more than once. Two-thirds of consumers do not visit any other dealerships than the one where they acquired their current vehicle.

Customer experience

Sixty-eight percent of consumers rate customer experience as a somewhat or very important factor in choosing where to buy a vehicle. Two-thirds of consumers still find printed brochures and spec sheets very useful for gathering information at the dealership. Seventy percent rate getting a good deal/price as the most enjoyable part of the dealer experience. The friendliness/relationship with the sales associate ranks second with 40 percent.

Interaction matters

Interacting with a real person, having a friendly relationship with the dealer, minimal paperwork, and getting vehicle price information online are the most important aspects of the vehicle buying process. Both manufacturers and dealers could be missing an important opportunity as 69 percent of consumers say they were never contacted by the manufacturer after acquiring their vehicle. However, dealers trump manufacturers in terms of quality of communication with 70 percent of consumers saying dealer communication is good/very good compared to 54 percent considering manufacturer communication good/very good.

About the Global Automotive Consumer Study

As part of a continuous assessment of consumer behaviour, Deloitte recently surveyed over 22,000 consumers in 17 countries around the world to shed light on consumer preferences regarding a variety of critical issues impacting the automotive sector. The overall goal of the study is to answer important questions that can help companies prioritize and better position their business strategies and investments.

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