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Who’s Driving Automotive Innovation?

by David Crosbie , 12.06.2012

One of the crucial stories for global marketers and manufacturers in coming years is the shift in impetus of consumer demand from the Developed markets of Europe, North America and Asia, to the Emerging world. One sector at the vanguard of this shift is the automotive category, with many of the developments here offering valuable lessons for other sectors. The Roper Reports® Worldwide survey provides insights into what the vast new car-buying class in Emerging markets is looking for, how this differs from their Developed world counterparts, and the implications for marketers everywhere.

Gone are the days when consumers in Emerging markets were expected to put up with cars that more mature markets outgrew, such as the Hindustan Ambassador (pictured), still on sale in India but based on the Morris Oxford sold in the UK from 1946-1959. Instead, multinational manufacturers are launching new models designed specifically to meet the needs of consumers in these markets. Toyota, for example, gave its entry-level Etios saloon its global debut in India, while Honda's small car the Brio was first launched in Thailand. Importantly, our data show that consumers’ desire for innovative new cars is highest in Developing markets, suggesting that manufacturers should continue to pursue this strategy.

A desire for novelty and innovation among Emerging world consumers is not limited to the automotive category. Companies that can offer innovative solutions tailored to the needs of these increasingly lucrative consumers have much to gain, while those who cannot risk being left in the slow lane. Moreover, the innovations that these consumers look for clearly vary considerably from market to market and among demographic and socio-economic groups. The key challenge is to ascertain what kinds of features and innovations are most desired by these new consumers, and how best to convey the benefit.