Car and Truck Buyers Face Brand New World

New-car tech is great, but buyers still shop on price.

Timothy Healey
    Apr 29, 2017 8:05 AM  PT
Car and Truck Buyers Face Brand New World
author: Timothy Healey    

It's not necessarily news that today's brand-new vehicle is worlds apart from what was on the market just a decade ago.

But since many vehicle owners have kept their cars and trucks for a long time for various reasons, those who are reentering the market from a long hiatus may be in for a shock.

It's All About The Price

The New York Times sent a reporter to two dealerships – one in Seattle, and one in nearby Tacoma, Wash. – to talk to customers.

The Times reporter found that consumers are knowledgeable about what tech is available at what price point, but he also wondered, did consumers actually want that tech?

He found, perhaps unsurprisingly, that affordability matters, especially to the non-luxury buyer.

"For our buyers, it depends on how sensitive their budgets are," Gary Gilchrist, the president of Gilcrhist Chevrolet Buick GMC told Times reporter Tom Voelk. "If they can get more safety bang for their buck, they'll jump at it."

At a Volvo dealership Voelk visited, the sales manager said that younger buyers know about all the new tech and jump at the chance to add it to their vehicles, but some older customers, especially those accustomed to older vehicles, say that they don't like it and don't want it. Some even say they don't understand it or how it works.

The same sales manager also said it was hard for his store to sell cars that didn't offer Volvo's semi-autonomous driving system.

Is Technology Really Necessary?

Other customers expressed mixed feelings. One customer was skeptical of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto because he has a Windows phone. The same customer – and others – expressed interest in tech that could benefit their day-to-day lives or reduce the consequences of human error.

Yet others felt that drivers were becoming too dependent on safety tech, particularly driver-aid systems that are intended to increase safety, and abdicating their own responsibilities to pay attention to their surroundings and control their vehicles. One Army member stationed in the Seattle-Tacoma area told the paper he didn't trust these systems for that reason.

That same Army solider also said he was more concerned about getting a good deal than he was with the tech features available on the Kia he was buying.

Employees of both dealerships that the reporter visited emphasized that they educate their customers, and even older customers come around once they learn about the tech. On the other hand, a couple of car buyers interviewed were turned off by some of the tech or felt that they didn't need it.

It's a brave new world, but old habits die hard, and price still trumps tech, at least for some.
New York Times