NewYork, 07.01.2020

Luxury auto “intenders” are 50% to 70% more likely to embrace autonomous, electric vehicles – GfK


New study shows growing gap between luxury, non-luxury buyers when it comes to interest in “smart” features

New US research from GfK suggests that consumers who plan to buy luxury cars (auto “intenders”) are embracing electric and autonomous vehicle features at a faster pace than their non-luxury counterparts. But these technologies still need to close a wide gap – of interest and trust – to reach mainstream success.

GfK just shared highlights of this new research at CES 2020. To learn more, contact Tom Neri at tom.neri(at)

The latest Auto Tech Insights study from GfK AutoMobility™ shows that 50% of luxury intenders are interested in buying or leasing an electric vehicle – up from 40% just one year ago. But interest among non-luxury intenders has remained flat, at 29%. That means interest among luxury intenders is more than 70% higher than interest for non-luxury car shoppers.

Among luxury intenders in Generation Y (ages 23 to 41), desire for an electric car is even stronger, with nearly three-quarters (72%) expressing interest – compared to 62% last year. But among non-luxury Gen Y intenders, levels are essentially unchanged year-to-year, going from 44% in 2018 to 43% in 2019 -- so interest among Gen Y luxury intenders is nearly 70% higher than the non-luxury group.

The new research also shows that members of Gen Y are dramatically split in their expectations of electric vehicle mileage. While one-third (33%) say an electric car would only need to run 50 to 100 miles per charge to be worthy of consideration, 29% would expect 401 to 800 miles. By comparison, only 14% of Baby Boomers (ages 54 to 72) would be comfortable with 50 to 100 miles per charge, while 23% would want 401 to 800 miles.        

More comfortable with being the passenger

Luxury intenders are also increasingly open to higher levels of vehicle autonomy, leading their non-luxury counterparts by roughly 50%. Almost half (47%) of luxury buyers are interested in cars where no driver is required – a percentage that has risen 8 points since 2018. In contrast, only 31% of non-luxury intenders are open to this highest level of autonomy, and the level has risen just 3 points since last year. (See Table 1.)

Overall, luxury intenders lead non-luxury for interest in five out of six autonomy classifications, with differentials of 12 to 16 points between the two groups. And while interest levels grew roughly 7 points on average year-over-year for “lux” buyers, the average increase for non-luxury intenders was about 3 points.

Table 1. Interest in autonomous vehicle capabilities

Luxury vs. non-luxury auto intenders very/mostly interested


Luxury intenders

% point growth (vs. 2018)

Non-luxury intenders

% point growth (vs. 2018)

Level 5 (least driver intervention)





Level 4





Level 3





Level 2





Level 1





Level 0 (most driver intervention)





In addition, when it comes to higher levels of autonomy, the differences between luxury and non-luxury intenders are more dramatic for Gen Y than for Boomers. While the lux/non-lux gap in Gen Y is 15 to 18 points for the three highest autonomy categories, it is just 8 to 9 points among Boomers.

“To keep growing the opportunities in auto tech – especially electric and autonomous features – manufacturers need to close the dramatic gap between luxury and non-luxury buyers,” said Tom Neri, Commercial Director for GfK AutoMobility™. “We see two key issues at play here – value and trust. Car buyers with less to spend may see smart auto tech as frivolous and beyond their means, rather than a practical tool that will help them get things done.

"At the same time, intenders – like consumers generally – may fear that the much-hyped breaches of personal data may soon be coming to their vehicles. Manufacturers and third-party providers need to assure consumers that these new technologies are safe and smart – leveraging their brand equity and demonstrating that they plan to take real actions that build confidence.”       

The Auto Tech Insights report is based on interviews with 3,480 new vehicle intenders, conducted in July 2019. Intenders are defined as those intending a new vehicle within the next 10 years.  The 2019 Auto Tech study included 832 Luxury Intenders and 2,648 Non-Luxury Intenders.


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