Nielsen measures consumer demand for Internet-connected cars

nielsen cars jan2015In the frothing realm of connected cars, we know what the tech companies and automakers are doing. (They are building a fragmented range of digital dashboards targeted to different categories of driver.) But what do car-buyers want? Assessing demand at the end of the chain is important, if the products in car lots are going to match actual consumer appetite for streaming audio in the car.

Nielsen’s new report on consumer preferences in connected cars is not particularly about streaming audio, or infotainment. But it does explicitly measure consumer feelings about Internet connectivity in cars, which is a key question as the industry rolls out autos with both built-in Internet, and plug-in Internet (via smartphone plugged into the dashboard). Consumers have been able to plug in their phones in some new cars for several years, and an aftermarket serves that need in non-equipped cars.

Nielsen’s survey of 4,000-plus consumers revealed that only 7% have Internet built into their cars. In that small percentage, though, 64% use it, and 885 of them are satisfied with it. Voice-activation features, which make operation safer while driving, also score high on the satisfaction scale.

Nielsen asked about mobile apps built into the dashboard. In the survey’s context those apps might not be related to audio, but non-broadcast audio¬†is delivered via app in connected dashboards. Use and satisfaction results are similar to the connectivity question — not many peopl have built-in apps (7%), but many of those people like them (89%).

These profiles seem to point to awareness and distribution opportunities. If automakers (and music service companies) can get connectivity and apps better penetrated into the driving lifestyle, adoption and satisfaction could be high.

Brad Hill