(Bloomberg) -- Mike Fine was perfectly happy with his 2011 Nissan Xterra. Then he got a look at his son’s ride.
The 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee was packed with technology: a touchscreen loaded with apps, Bluetooth, all-wheel drive and push-button start. The Nissan had none of those. Fine did what any self-respecting father would do: He ditched the 4-year-old Nissan SUV for his own Grand Cherokee.
“Compared to the Xterra, this is a comfortable space shuttle,” said Fine, who lives in Hingham, Mass.
Upgrade envy has helped Apple Inc. sell millions of pricey iPhones. Now, it’s the auto industry’s turn, thanks to a raft of new technologies that make cars safer and easier to drive. Must-have features like parking assist and wireless Web access have helped automakers recover from the 2009 bust and charge record prices for their vehicles.
The new gadgetry and falling oil prices are spurring demand. This year, automakers are expected to sell 16.9 million vehicles, for a sixth consecutive year of growth.
And in a potentially dramatic shift in buying behavior, many drivers are trading in their cars more often to get the latest gear. The average length of an auto lease fell to about 36 months last year, according to Edmunds.com, which tracks vehicle purchase information. That’s the shortest term Edmunds has recorded. In some months, leases shrank to less than three years — not much more than the smartphone replacement cycle.
“Consumers want a seamless experience in and out of the vehicle,” said Brian May, who runs Accenture’s connected vehicle business service in North America. “Things they experience on an iPhone or Android are the things they want to experience in a car.”