Without a doubt, the digital age has made new vehicles more pleasurable to drive, but how do consumers feel about all these mind-blowing gizmos? A recent CarMax survey called Exploring Drivers’ Car Technology Habits and Preferences showed that nearly 50 percent wish their current vehicle had more tech features. In addition, eight out of 10 people rank tech features as somewhat necessary when buying a new car, and people in their 20s and 30s were most likely to rank tech features as extremely important when making a purchasing decision.
CarMax was interested to know which particular tech features consumers desire in their next vehicle. The survey found that the top five must-have tech features were Bluetooth connectivity, power locks, power windows, rearview cameras, and power seats. Surprisingly, Apple CarPlay was near the bottom five, with only 12.3 percent looking for this feature in their next car.
The most desirable advanced safety feature was blind-spot monitoring, with 34.2 percent saying they want the system in their next vehicle. Lane departure warning and adaptive cruise control scored lower at 21.4 and 18.8 percent, respectively.
The survey then took a deeper dive into the tech features car owners were most likely to have already. Unsurprisingly, seven out of 10 had cars with cruise control, power windows, and power locks. In the CarMax survey, 35 percent said power windows are an indispensable feature, while 32 percent feel the same about power door locks. Bluetooth connectivity is also a must-have feature, with 34 percent of car owners saying they can’t live without it.
Less Popular Features
On the other end of the spectrum are ventilated seats, automated parking, and seat massagers, tech features that most people find unnecessary, along with DVD video systems and head-up displays. CarMax claims the decreased demand for these tech features indicates changing trends in how people view technology. For instance, streaming services like Hulu and Netflix have made in-car DVD players redundant, while seat massagers and ventilated seats are only available in expensive luxury cars (or premium trim levels at the very least).
Tesla Tops The List
Without question, buyers perceive Tesla as the brand with the best tech features. More than 40 percent believe Tesla is the one to beat in terms of technology, according to the CarMax survey. However, 27.5 percent said BMW places second to Tesla, followed by fellow German automakers Mercedes-Benz and Audi. Japanese stalwarts Toyota, Lexus, and Honda, round out the top eight.
The Tesla Model 3 is now the bestselling premium vehicle globally, outpacing the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, and Mercedes E-Class. It only took Tesla four years to pull ahead of its German counterparts, and the EV maker is pushing to achieve 20 million annual car sales by 2030.
It seems male drivers cannot wait to get their hands on a self-driving car. The survey shows that more than 50 percent of male drivers are looking forward to autonomous driving, while only 35 percent of women like the idea of being driven by computers and software. In a strange twist, however, only 31.2 percent of male drivers think night vision technology is essential, while 42.2 percent of women feel night vision capability is important for future vehicles.
Other tech features that drivers want to see include smart headlights, ultra-classic airbags (or airbags that help stop cars), drowsiness detection, and energy-storing body panels. The Lamborghini Terzo Millennio Concept utilizes CFK nanomaterial body panels and composite structural elements that store electricity, so the premise of energy-storing body panels is not too far off from reality.
And, of course, enthusiasts and futurists have been pining for flying cars since the space race of the mid-1950s. But in CarMax’s survey, only 21 percent think flying cars are the way of the future.
Using CarMax sales data from January 1st, 2020, to December 31st, 2020, the company analyzed the trends in tech features included in vehicle sales. State data was normalized using nationwide sales percentages. CarMax then pinpointed the feature in every state that was most above the national average in its presence across vehicle sales.
CarMax also surveyed 1,026 current car owners within the general population about their feelings on vehicle technology. Respondents were 55.6 percent men and 44.2 percent women. Three respondents were nonbinary. The average age of respondents was about 39. The full study from CarMax can be found here.
Alvin Reyes is an Automoblog feature columnist and an expert in sports and performance cars. He studied civil aviation, aeronautics, and accountancy in his younger years and is still very much smitten to his former Lancer GSR and Galant SS. He also likes fried chicken, music, and herbal medicine.