Creature comforts now top car-shoppers' 'must-haves'Wed, 08 May 2013
New technologies come with a learning curve, but once we tackle the initial challenge it's amazing how quickly new features become “must-haves.” From cars that unlock as we approach to those that keep themselves between the lines and a safe distance from what's ahead, we have already become accustomed to high-tech driving.
So which features would most drivers refuse to live without? Surprisingly, it's the simplest creature comforts most people hold dear—at least for now.
Paul Wilbur, a senior automotive advisor for global management consulting firm McKinsey and Co., says as much as he is floored by being able to buy a 580-hp Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 from the factory, it's a car's day-to-day comfort and convenience features that make driving an experience.
“I like heated seats and steering wheels because your hands are cold in the morning and this works,” he said. Wilbur also added a power-closing trunk or hatch to his favorites because he would rather not have to pull a dusty, wet or snowy door closed.
Tim Stevens, Autoweek contributor and editor-in-chief of the technology-focused blog engadget.com, has to have Bluetooth audio. “I'm constantly streaming music in my car,” he said. “In fact I can't remember the last time I actually used the radio.”
Jim Hall, managing director of 2953 Analytics with three decades of auto-industry experience, said what we love about our cars depends a lot on our age.
“Younger buyers would rather text than drive,” Hall explained. “It used to be the 'event' was going for a ride in the car. Now, the 'event' is where the car is going, not the trip itself.”
Hall said autonomous cars are what younger drivers crave, citing the new Mercedes-Benz S-class as a prime example of how much driving a car can already do sans input from the driver.
Stevens agreed that not driving at all might be the wave of the future. “Self-parking cars are very close to commonplace at this point,”Stevens said. In fact Toyota, Lexus, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Ford and Lincoln all offer park assist on at least a portion of their model lineup. “Adaptive cruise control and lane departure are basically the stepping stones to cars that drive themselves.”
Hall predicts autonomous cars will likely be here, in some form, by the end of the decade.
For now, Hall's personal taste in technology is more old-fashioned. He enjoys driving and likes any feature that complements the experience. For him, remote keyless entry, heated seats and HID headlights are just a few features that make a car more attractive.
By Sherrice Gilsbach