A final thought from the Detroit Show:
It is clear from the piling on of announcements that automakers are finally noting that in-vehicle electronics are important to their customers. (Wow, really!)
My view is that this is an area where car companies have consistently been far behind the curve. When consumers were adopting cassettes, car companies where rolling out 8-tracks. When CDs were being introduced, cassette players were finally offered. And so on.
Even today, on a vehicle supposedly as advanced as the new Bentley Continental, we are only now seeing proper iPod connectivity.
Some tardiness is blamed on long production leads. Some on vehicles tolerating only bug-free software.
In fairness, this is an area that the automakers have been dabbling in for some time. OnStar has been around for decades. The best system offered today is Ford’s Sync and it has been steadily improving for years.
But there is still a long way to go. Connecting smartphones via Bluetooth is fraught with glitches. And often usability is awful--you would swear many systems were never tried out in the real world before being launched.
So the news these days is that consumers often make a vehicle selection based on the electronics available rather than traditional differentiators. (Something we have seen for years as consumers navigate information on Edmunds.)
Even as automakers get their acts together this area, there is a big elephant in the room. The features consumers value highly can negativity impact safety. Already, the Honorable Ray LaHood has been offering up thoughts in this area, as noted in a recent Holman Jenkins column on the WSJ. (Which you can read here.)
This is an important subject. Sorting out the benefits of advanced in vehicle technologies and balancing the safety risks will be one of the themes to be explored at a conference Edmunds is hosting in Washington this May.
More on that later.