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Auto industry experts taking close look at what consumers like about cars.

Measuring the Future of Consumers’ Automotive Needs

Automakers, suppliers and other stakeholders are exploring Experiences Per Mile to meet the latest consumer demands.

In today’s highly mobile and interconnected world, our cars provide so much more than just a means of getting us from point A to point B. They help redefine how we live with built-in features that can surpass even the latest home computer and smartphone technologies.

With new amenities that run the gamut from studio-grade audio and video to tailored navigation and mapping services, vehicles increasingly are becoming lifestyle purchases that offer more customization and personalization than ever before.

Now, as the automotive industry gears up for future innovations, original equipment manufacturers are closely gauging the latest consumer trends through enhanced Experiences Per Mile (EPM) – hyper-individualized metrics that account for real consumer needs. Data that for decades was handled as marketing analysis for individual manufacturers is being collectively sourced from car buyers and aggregated into a potentially standardized index, the first of its kind.

The EPM Advisory Council, a group of C-suite executives from OEMs, Tier 1 suppliers, third-party providers and more which encourages collaboration across the automotive industry to foster cutting-edge advancements, tapped global market research firm Ipsos to survey car buyers about what drives their biggest demands. The shared goal was to empower consumers to make more informed buying decisions and help manufacturers tailor their newest products to specific buyer needs.

In a recent report examining the latest consumer trends, the EPM Advisory Council finds vehicle connectivity and adaptability play essential roles in our purchasing decisions in 2022. This marks a notable shift from consumers shopping for vehicles with the highest horsepower, closest cornering or biggest brand name. Automotive companies must adapt to this change or risk losing out to competitors.

One key discovery in the report is that many car buyers have specific goals that can vary widely by trip type – from connecting and communicating in the thick of dense cities to unplugging and decompressing in far remote regions. Knowing such goals can be fulfilled is crucial to the average car buyer, the research shows. Consumers generally plan ahead for future trips when purchasing a new car and are quick to assess if the vehicle is flexible enough to accommodate their needs.

Another finding is that active use of in-vehicle features often makes it easier for consumers to achieve their trip goals, which can lead to higher product ratings. Manufacturers and dealers that encourage buyers to use the tech capabilities of their newly purchased vehicles can help improve the ownership experience while having a positive influence on the EPM Index. By analyzing the performance of individual features on a standardized index, industry stakeholders can also more clearly identify how effective each feature is.

Some 44% say their in-vehicle tech usage runs between five and seven features, while 15% say they use eight or more features and 41% say they use just one to four.

At the same time, a notable 40% of respondents still see their vehicles mainly as tools to help them get around. Changing that perspective remains a big focus for automotive innovators who believe smarter cars can help shape smarter driving and smarter cities. Safety, comfort, connectivity and class are all top of mind for progressive vehicle and equipment makers.

EPM Advisory Council member companies are helping spearhead new efforts to create an adaptable modern vehicle that can fully interact with its surroundings through highly attuned sensors while providing the latest comforts (as well as minimal gasoline usage).

The automotive industry also continues to make enormous strides with enhanced EPM metrics. The creation of a robust index that can differentiate by vehicle model and trip type is highly feasible, according to the report’s findings. Such metrics would allow buyers and sellers to compare individual models based on how well they meet the latest consumer needs. Existing metrics focus on consumer satisfaction with a vehicle’s built-in features and functions. But that potentially could expand to include vehicle-to-everything (V2X) communication between cars and other entities around them, as industry insiders know.

The measure of a car’s worth – once largely determined by exterior styling and mechanical performance – is steadily changing as consumers search for new ways to connect to the world around them, both inside and outside of their vehicles. The future of automotive mobility is about what moves consumers on an emotional as well as a functional level.

While the past two years have brought a pandemic, a major war and huge supply-chain disruptions, the pace of innovation and digitization in the automotive industry has continued to accelerate. The latest industry advancements present new opportunities and new challenges when it comes to creating a world-class consumer experience.

Tom Rivers.jpg

The collective endgame is to create actionable and widely accepted metrics to measure vehicles based on their ability to provide consumers with more fulfilling experiences across every mile. Just imagine tomorrow’s car buyers being able to shop online or at a local dealership and review a list of vehicles with the highest EPM ratings for their next big excursion.

To find out more, you can download the EPM Advisory Council’s full report here.

Tom Rivers (pictured, above left) is vice president, global marketing – automotive for Harman International.

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