Evolving automotive consumer preferences in India and the world

05 August 2019 Consultancy.in

As trends evolve in the automotive industry, so too are the expectations and perspectives of consumers. Deloitte has been surveying attitudes around the world – including India – with respect to autonomous and electric vehicles, and has found mixed attitudes towards the new technology.

Like most other sectors, the automotive industry has been forced into certain changes due to the advent of technology. For the automotive sector, this disruption has come most prominently from two directions, the first being an overall gravitation away from the internal combustion engine (ICE), and the second being automation.

Given its contribution to environmental degradation, the sector has come under rapidly increasing policy pressure from governments across the world. France, the UK and India are all among large economies that have plans to abolish the ICE over the next two decades and move to electric vehicles.

Safety concerns around autonomous vehicles

Automation, on the other hand, has proved a much slower process, due not only to the high levels of investment required to develop facilitating infrastructure, but also due to reluctant attitudes amongst consumers. Over the last decade, Deloitte has been monitoring attitudes to vehicles across the globe.

Predictably, the firm has found that the priorities have shifted from safety and customer experience to energy efficiency and electrification as the decade has progressed, although the firm also found a spike in the interest in artificial intelligence (AI) controlled autonomous vehicles in recent years. 

Nevertheless, this interest thus far has been purely academic and has failed to translate into concrete economic value. The biggest barrier to this, according to Deloitte, has been concerns around the safety of these vehicles. Instances of malfunctions in the technology in recent years have not helped this scenario.

Government oversight for autonomous vehicle production

According to Deloitte, the global automotive sector has arrived at a point where the infrastructure and technology has been developed to deliver autonomous vehicles at scale. Nevertheless, consumer concerns around safety are only rising in tandem with this progress.

Another concern regarding the autonomous vehicle space is the connectivity that is a necessary feature. Connectivity allows for smart travel and is capable of saving consumers crucial transit time, although endowing vehicles with this technology is an expensive process that has faced reluctance.

Consumers are also weary of the increasingly insecure cyber space, and concerned about their privacy regarding the data being collected under autonomous technology. As a result, Deloitte predicts that there are a number of obstacles in place before the envisioned future of smart mobility can be realised.

Trends in consumer preferences

On the other hand, the last three years have seen attitudes towards safety of autonomous vehicles improve significantly. In India, for instance, 64% of consumers agreed that autonomous vehicles were not a safe option, a number that has fallen to less than 50% this year. The primary factor contributing to the persistent concerns is the reporting of accidents in the media.

The solution for safety issues among consumers in most countries appears to be increasing the amount of government intervention. Across Asia in particular, more than 60% of the consumers in all countries – barring Japan (53%) – felt that government supervision is crucial during the development of autonomous vehicles. In India, this figure is at 60%.