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Smart Insights: Automotive

The global automotive industry is facing change on two fronts: a shifting industry landscape of emerging markets and increasing environmental regulations, and evolving consumer behavior and expectations.

To remain competitive, automotive manufacturers and retailers need industry insights that provide clear direction on today’s markets and the consumer demands of tomorrow.  

Our automotive market research experts deliver smart insights across all areas: From optimizing new concepts and product design (for example through car clinics), identifying precise actions to improve car brand perception or experiences, to tracking automotive aftersales.

Success Stories
  • Improving market impact by testing brand strength

    Improving market impact by testing brand strength

    28.06.2016

    We helped our client understand ways of improving its brand relationships with its target audience.

    Situation

    This client is a significant player in the market for compact, stylish and fuel-efficient city cars. It wished to learn more about how consumers relate to its brand and how to create a deeper emotional bond between customers and its brand. The manufacturer also wanted to assess the customer-brand relationship and the performance of a new model.

    Approach

    We employed our customer-brand relationship (CBR) framework in Germany to investigate how strong and positive consumers’ connections were with our client’s compact car. We also benchmarked the manufacturer’s brand relationships with its customers against those of its category competitors.

    Outcome

    Our research found that the auto company enjoyed strong relationships with 38% of consumers, while its top two competitors had strong connections with 46% and 47% of customers respectively. Additionally, its brand had the highest share of negative relationships with consumers at 11%. Taking these findings into consideration, we were able to propose ways our client could improve its brand impact in the market, such as leveraging its joy of life attributes to increase brand equity and catch up with its competitors.

    Click here to download our success story (short version)

    Click here to download our success story (long version)

  • Testing the vehicle interfaces of tomorrow

    Testing the vehicle interfaces of tomorrow

    28.06.2016

    We help a European automaker conduct user experience and usability research for its navigation and infotainment systems.

    Situation

    Ensuring that human-machine interaction (HMI) remains easy and enjoyable is a growing challenge for our client as it incorporates a growing list of new features.

    Approach

    For more than five years, we have worked with the client on the usability and user experience of its in-vehicle navigation and infotainment systems. We used iterative usability testing with real users to help improve upcoming models and ensure that new concepts and interfaces met user requirements. Our driver distraction testing has also played an important role in our work for the company. We have conducted over 50 studies in total to help the carmaker improve interaction and display concepts in the HMI. This research has spanned the clients’ facilities, our own labs and real-world traffic.

    Outcome

    We helped the automaker to create a usable, engaging and desirable user interface for its latest navigation and infotainment system, launched recently in one of its high-end sedans. Our work has also helped ensure driver distraction from the in-vehicle systems stays within accepted industry guidelines. We continue to work on new interface concepts for future models.

    Click here to download our success story (short version)

    Click here to download our success story (long version)

  • Enhancing brand performance in the US luxury auto market

    Enhancing brand performance in the US luxury auto market

    12.11.2015

    GfK researched one of Europe’s major auto manufacturers to determine the strength of its brand relationships with customers in the United States.

    A large European auto manufacturer that focuses on the luxury segment.

    Situation

    This company has improved the perception of its product and brand in the US market over the past few years and is establishing itself as a serious alternative for premium car buyers. Though our client’s brand equity and sales are steadily growing in the US, we conducted research around ways our client could further strengthen its performance.

    Approach

    We analyzed the auto manufacturer’s market impact using our Brand Vivo methodology – an approach that provides insight into consumer-brand relationships.

    Outcome

    The research showed the client is lagging the market leaders in consideration, familiarity and buying intention. We found that the automaker’s relationships with a high share of consumers in its target market were weak. Thus, to increase long-term brand success in the US, we recommended that the client:

    • evaluate current communications to ensure it had strong “personal fit” and “fun to drive”
      messaging
    • monitor social media buzz and take actions to encourage website visits
    • ensure relevant distribution of service centers.

    Click here to download our success story (short version)

    Click here to download our success story (long version)

  • Evolving a luxury car brand in Europe

    Evolving a luxury car brand in Europe

    12.11.2015

    GfK rolled out a brand tracking program for an auto manufacturer that wanted to improve brand relationships with consumers.

    The client is a manufacturer of luxury vehicles.

    Situation

    This carmaker has been struggling to command brand presence in the media and in consumers’ minds in the largest European markets for premium motor cars.

    Approach

    We implemented a brand tracking program in Spain, Germany, France, Italy and the UK for this client. Our purchase funnel model gave it rich insight into the car buyer’s decision-making process. Applying our ConX ® methodology, we evaluated the vehicle manufacturer’s customer experience at various touchpoints. This painted a picture of how negative, positive and memorable these brand experiences were from the consumer’s perspective. The GfK Brand Vivo methodology underpinned our analysis. It uses human relationships as metaphors for the connection between brands and consumers.

    Outcome

    Our solution enabled our client to track brand performance in its most important markets over a year. We found that its investments in marketing yielded an improvement in short-term funnel performance. However, it was not yet succeeding in strengthening longer-term relationships with consumers. We recommended that the client evolve its marque in the following ways:

    • Increase branding in all marketing activities
    • Focus on shifting the technocratic tone of its communications to a more emotional one.

    Click here to download our success story (short version)

    Click here to download our success story (long version)

Latest insights

Here you can find the latest insights for automotive industry. View all insights

    • 09/06/18
    • Automotive
    • Global
    • English

    Driving Gen Z

    Turn back the clock a handful of years and you’ll find automotive strategists bearish that Millennials’ lack of interest in vehicle ownership will usher in the slow, but inevitable, decline of the car industry. Yet, today, 29% of new vehicles are already being bought by Millennials. In just a few years, despite accounting for only a quarter of the population, our largest generation at 80 million will account for 40% of new car sales. And they’ll just be entering their prime earning years at that point. Naturally, Millennials will be the sales focal point for quite some time. However, manufacturers are already looking towards the next generation of American drivers. Known as Post-Millennial or Gen Z, they’re roughly 8 to 20 years old today and expected to be 75+ million strong. With the vast majority still in school or living at home, innovation for tomorrow begins with insights unearthed today. GfK Consumer Life has been tracking the emergence of this young generation for some time, and we’ve identified several themes that will yield challenges, but also opportunities, for manufacturers.

    Ambitious, yet pragmatic

    As previously outlined, the post-Millennial generation is as focused on accomplishment, if not more, than on self-discovery. Financial independence is their primary goal today. In fact, 80% want to stay away from debt completely, according to research from GfK Consumer Life. And as they watched Millennials before them struggle with mounting college debt, 54% have already taken jobs to earn money for college, while 85% plan to work during their college years. Arguably the strongest advantage today’s teens have compared to Millennials is a robust economy. In retrospect, the timing of the Great Recession (along with historically high gas prices in 2008) as Millennials transitioned to adulthood had the most profound impact on their attitudes towards vehicle ownership. With unemployment reaching an 18-year low earlier this year, upcoming graduates may find a more lucrative job market, and access to transportation more affordable. In fact, after a short dip during the recession, Americans are now driving more miles with more vehicles than ever before. While it’s impossible to predict the next recession, manufacturers and retailers should expect the next generation to transition more seamlessly (and perhaps earlier) into adulthood. They may be shopping your brand sooner, rather than later – if, of course, the product is right.

    Seamless mobility

    You won’t just be selling cars to this generation, you’ll provide them access to fully integrated mobile platforms that eliminate the gap between in- and out-of-car experiences. Today, it’s connected car features – from smartphone integration to streaming services to mobile wifi. Yet, smart devices are second nature to them (1 in 3 are already using mobile voice command), and GfK Consumer Life has found that they’re already 50% more likely than the average American to be controlling smart home or smart car devices and features from their phone. Manufacturers will need to work hard and fast to integrate vehicles into their internet of Things. Whether it’s warming up the oven or conducting mobile video conferences on the drive home from work, or ordering food or vacation planning while in transit (as GM recently introduced with its mobile Marketplace), this generation will demand the absolute elimination of transit “dead time.”

    Multi-mobile

    Of course, ‘buying’ may not be their prerogative. The fiscal savvy of this age group will place greater emphasis on building a flexible transportation portfolio, which may include any number of public, shared, or owned vehicles and services. According to GfK Consumer Life’s most recent 2018 data, teens are just as likely to use public transportation as Millennials (20%), yet less than half as likely (15% vs. 27%) to have used car sharing services. However, on the latter, they are already well ahead of Gen X (11%) and the Boomers (4%) before them. Not surprising, manufacturers are moving aggressively on this front. Subscription models from luxury brands are being tested regionally. Yet, with significant pricing premiums attached to such programs, viability beyond the most affluent is still in question. Gen Z may provide the scale to take these programs mainstream. In fact, they’re already catching up to Millennials on interest in vehicle subscription services (39% vs. 41%), and ahead on shared ownership (32% vs. 28%), despite being novice drivers.

    Security first

    Growing up in the aftermath of 9/11, countless school shootings (active shooter drills are now commonplace in our K-12 schools), and too-many-to-count data privacy breaches, manufacturers can expect this generation to take a more cautionary, yet demanding approach to personal safety and security. According to GfK MRI’s American Teen Study, they are more likely to rate safety in an accident higher relative to fun to drive, compared to Millennials as teens in 2011. Today, 42% view proactive safety systems as important, while 46% are also seeking features that protect from environmental hazards. In fact, according to GfK’s Automotive Innovation and Technology Study, Gen Z are almost three times as likely as average respondents to be seeking wellness solutions that go beyond active and passive safety systems. Beyond physical safety, auto manufacturers might find it more challenging to access and leverage Gen Z’s digital footprint compared to Millennials before them. These teens are sharing less personal information online, with only 31% keeping social pages updated (vs. 45% in 2009). Only 44% are willing to share personal data, even in exchange for benefits and rewards (compared to 62% of Millennials). According to GfK MRI, they are also more than twice as likely as Millennials to embrace the privacy of Snapchat (75% vs 37%), reinforcing their need for secure channels. As the first post-digital generation, they have also identified the limitations of social media and are re-investing in personal interactions. In fact, 3 of 4 are choosing smaller groups of friends over large groups of acquaintances, while a study from IBM suggests that Gen Z is placing as much importance on offline socializing as online. This social recalibration will be an invitation for brands to develop trusted one-to-one relationships with their next generation of clients. Leveraging the convenience of mobile technology, manufacturers such as Lincoln are adding concierge services for a decidedly personal touch to the entire life of the ownership experience. While these are generally reserved for premium brands and consumers today, such offline approaches may well suit the next young buyers seeking a brand connection – one that’s equally digital and analog.

    The road ahead

    While Millennials are center stage for now, the next consumer wave is right around the corner. As it stands, the future looks bright for Gen Z, and especially for those manufacturers who have begun to shine a light on them.
    • 07/10/18
    • Fashion and Lifestyle
    • Media and Entertainment
    • Retail
    • Technology
    • Automotive
    • Consumer Goods
    • Geomarketing
    • Geodata
    • Global
    • English

    Belgians’ purchasing power for food three times that of Poles

    GfK calculated the product-line purchasing power for 17 product groups in various European countries.
    • 09/28/17
    • Financial Services
    • Automotive
    • Market Opportunities and Innovation
    • Trends and Forecasting
    • Global
    • English

    What impact is renewal transparency having on the British motor insurance market?

    Premium Drivers

    If you have renewed your motor insurance recently you may have noticed that the price your insurer has asked you to pay has probably increased. A combination of higher Insurance Premium Tax (rates have doubled over the past two years), bigger injury pay-outs and rising vehicle repair costs mean that motor insurance prices are now at an all-time high. Even for those of us savvy enough to shop around and switch provider, prices have also typically risen, despite the fact that the market remains as competitive as ever. However, it still generally pays to switch, as the vast majority of motor insurance providers are still willing to chase new business and therefore many still offer introductory discounts. Given this, it is somewhat concerning that, according to GfK’s Financial Research Survey (FRS), that the number of drivers who do switch has remained basically unchanged compared to four years ago. The number has held steady at around a quarter of drivers. So it would seem that many drivers don’t know, don’t consider, or just can’t be bothered, to change provider, despite the rising prices.

    Motor insurance renewal transparency: early signs of increased shopping around

    But there are tentative signs that this might be changing. Since April 2017, insurance providers have had to disclose prior year premiums on renewal notices. These new rules mandated by the FCA allow customers to compare more easily what they paid last year versus what they may pay this year, if they remain with the same provider. Early signs suggest renewal transparency has helped encourage greater levels of shopping around but this hasn’t so far translated into actual switching. According to the FRS, the proportion of drivers who “actively renew” their motor insurance (renew but take out at least one quote) has grown and now stands at 29%, the highest-ever level. In addition, a high proportion of those who have switched in the last 12 months also state that they are likely to switch again. On the other hand, large numbers are still auto-renewing on their motor insurance, particularly across older age groups where auto renewal rates remain stubbornly high at over 45%. For these customers, renewal transparency rules mean that providers must now also include additional disclosures on renewal notices explicitly encouraging people to shop around. Overall, I think renewal transparency has definitely been a useful step forward in making the motor insurance market more consumer friendly, and it will be interesting to see if it helps encourage greater levels of switching in the months ahead. If you would like more data, please contact me.

    The Financial Research Survey (FRS) is one of the largest and longest running surveys tracking personal financial holdings and behaviours and is considered the industry benchmark within the British financial industry

    • 09/06/17
    • Fashion and Lifestyle
    • Home Appliances
    • Financial Services
    • Media and Entertainment
    • Retail
    • Technology
    • Travel and Hospitality
    • Automotive
    • Consumer Goods
    • FMCG
    • Home and Living
    • Market Opportunities and Innovation
    • Consumer Life
    • Global
    • English

    The mood of the world today – what are people thinking?

    In this free on-demand webinar, our experts dive into current consumer confidence and other key indicators of the consumer mindset and what it means for individual markets and brands.
Solutions
  • User Experience (UX)

    User Experience (UX)

    Our user experience (UX) research and design experts help our clients create and improve customer experiences for existing or new products and services.

    Today’s consumer is bombarded with promises for compelling experiences. They are sophisticated and demanding. To be successful, a new product or service needs to be intuitive, usable, engaging and desirable. The user experience needs to be emotional in order to be memorable.

  • Market Opportunities and Innovation (MOI)

    Market Opportunities and Innovation (MOI)

    Brands are under constant pressure to maintain relevance in an increasingly crowded market. Identifying when, where and how to deliver compelling experiences that deliver new value for both consumers and brands is critical.

  • Trends & Forecasting

    Trends & Forecasting

    ​Today’s steady stream of new offerings and shortening product lifecycles place a unique pressure on businesses to stay ahead. Consumer purchasing behavior shifts more rapidly than ever.

  • Point of Sales Tracking

    Point of Sales Tracking

    Retailers and manufacturers are under pressure to develop products and services that maximize sales and profit and to keep customers coming back.

    Success relies on having the most up-to-date sales data, combined with robust analysis to understand which products and services are performing well in the market – and which are not. With this information, clients can set clear strategies for commercial growth and increase return on investment.

  • Brand and Customer Experience (BaCE)

    Brand and Customer Experience (BaCE)

    Brands are under pressure to develop emotional connections and relationships with consumers and business decision makers.  Brands need to respond in-the-moment, to enrich the customer experience – and develop strategies that influence ”moments of truth” throughout individual brand journeys.

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