The onslaught of in-vehicle electronics is making automobile consumers more brand-conscious - but not necessarily toward automakers.
A new industry survey suggests that consumers are beginning to expect specific brands of electronics in their vehicles, even to see the component brand as a key element of the vehicle's value.
'Interest in brands has increased about 50 percent since last year,' said Michael Schmall, managing partner for Planning Edge. Schmall's Farmington Hills, Mich., company will release its 2000 Supplier Branding Study late this month.
'The OEMs are putting more brand names in their literature and on their vehicles, and people are more aware of the differences in the products themselves,' he said.
The study, which focused on safety, interiors and telematics, showed that out of 40 consumer brands mentioned, the top 10 were: Scotchgard, Stainmaster, AAA, Motorola, DuPont, GE, JVC, Microsoft, Nokia and IBM.
As the use of plug-and-play products such as videocassette recorders increases, consumers will become even more brand-conscious about in-vehicle electronics, Schmall predicted.
The study showed that 72 percent of those surveyed thought it was important to know the manufacturer of an in-vehicle TV, VHS or DVD player if they were going to use these systems both inside the vehicle and out.
He also said consumers are expecting more from in-vehicle electronics, such as TVs, stereos and computers, and want them to have the same level of quality as they do at home or at the office.
Schmall noted that consumer awareness of vehicle e-mail systems is increasing sharply.
The survey saw twice as many respondents express an interest in e-mail component brands this year over last year.
Consumers said they would be willing to pay extra to get a computer with a brand name they trust.
Consumers' interest in the branding of their vehicles' seats and heating and cooling systems were relatively low compared with their interest in the branding of their video entertainment systems, navigation systems and in-vehicle Internet service providers.
Schmall predicts that the increasing interest in brand names will prompt more automakers to partner with well-known consumer goods companies to produce more vehicles like the Sony limited-edition Ford Focus.
Said Schmall: 'Vehicle quality is so high and designs are so similar that with all things equal, branded components will be one more thing to put a vehicle over the top.'