Automakers are investing billions of dollars in electrification and autonomy, two areas in which consumers are showing middling interest.
A new study from Deloitte, released at CES, underscores the ambivalence car buyers are feeling toward autonomous and electric cars, and shows that the amount they are willing to pay for these powertrains and features may be less than what automakers think.
Fifty-eight percent of U.S. consumers told the global consulting firm they are not willing to pay more than $500 for autonomous-vehicle technology. Perhaps worse for companies developing AVs, which often use the promise of safer roads as a compelling marketing tool, 48 percent of consumers believe self-driving vehicles will be unsafe.
The survey was conducted for Deloitte's 2020 Global Automotive Consumer Study. Just more than half — 51 percent — of the respondents are concerned by the idea of autonomous vehicles being tested in areas near where they live.
"Underlying these massive r&d investments is the assumption that consumers will actually pay for advanced vehicle technologies when they appear on the market," said Joe Vitale, global automotive sector leader for Deloitte. "As consumer skepticism gains momentum, automakers should rationalize returns on invested capital to remain profitable as consumers' desires to purchase new technologies continue to wane."
More encouraging for EVs
The results are more encouraging for electric vehicles. Forty-one percent of U.S. consumers say they are actively considering a hybrid-electric or battery-electric vehicle for their next purchase. That's up from 29 percent only last year.
But there's a disconnect. Even though the average vehicle owner travels only about 27 miles per day, according to the Deloitte study, 41 percent also believe that full battery-electric vehicles should have a range of at least 300 miles. In the meantime, there are still concerns over charging infrastructure and how the widespread rollout of chargers will be funded.
"The automotive ecosystem still has some work to do in terms of making EVs as easy and convenient as internal combustion engines, lowering the cost of EVs and figuring out just who will build and pay for the charging infrastructure," said Craig Giffi, vice chairman of Deloitte Insights.
Such warnings aren't necessarily new or surprising. But at the outset of a new decade, they reinforce the uncertainty that lies ahead.
— Pete Bigelow