The auto industry's top five most influential trends

Whether you work in the automobile industry or follow it with interest, you’ll know that we’re witnessing a renaissance in design, styling and performance, and retailing.

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In no particular order, here are five influential trends impacting our industry today.

Infotainment: At major auto shows in the last few years, automakers have introduced a wave of new infotainment and information technologies, from connectivity with your smartphone and in-dash apps to sophisticated audio and navigation systems to gesture control.

One of the big trends is digital screens, which are expanding in size and number within the vehicle. In some new models, it’s now possible for the front and rear passengers to access their own information and infotainment screens.

Many new car dealers have begun offering orientation seminars for customers to learn how to operate these new features.

Also Read: Streaming hits new heights in the Cadillac CT6

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Safety: Each year, automakers introduce improvements to electronic safety systems, such as lane-departure and blind-spot warning systems, adaptive cruise control and front and rear emergency braking systems.

But with each generation of these new and evolving technologies, the temptation to manipulate and interact with those technologies increases as well. This urge to stay connected and entertained is resulting in higher incidences of distracted driving in Canada.

The CBC reported that “deaths caused by distracted driving collisions have more than doubled since 2000, making them the leading cause of death on the province’s roads.”

Police continue to launch campaigns aimed at identifying and penalizing drivers who talk and text without the aid of a hands-free device. But it’s an ongoing battle.

The Trillium Automobile Dealers Association lobbied hard about the dangers of distracted driving. Our association’s efforts helped to bring about the passing of stiffer penalties for distracted driving in Ontario. Unfortunately, we’re still years away from seeing a massive change in driver behaviour for this offence.

Also Read: Toyota Safety Sense

Lighter materials: The trend toward lighter vehicles has been occurring for decades. Thirty years ago, the average sedan weighed 2,041 kilograms, and today the average weight is 1,590 kg.

In their quest to produce vehicles that are lighter and more fuel-efficient, and in light of tough emissions standards in the U.S. and other countries, automakers are leaving no stone unturned. They are experimenting with a range of new materials, such as aluminum, magnesium, carbon fiber, compressed wood, and stronger steels, many of which are now more recyclable than ever.

Also Read: Breaking new auto research ground

Millennials: In recent years, industry experts have noted that millennials have avoided buying cars because of high student debt, a slumping economy, ride-sharing programs, among other reasons. But recent studies have revealed that millennials aren’t averse to becoming car owners after all — they have only delayed their purchases.

In 2015, millennials represented the second-highest buying group (behind baby boomers). For the foreseeable future, millennial car buyers as a market segment will continue to pose unique challenges to the automobile industry.

That’s partly because the millennials’ path to purchasing a vehicle and their expectations are much different than previous generations. That car-buying process involves social media, online reviews, hundreds of touch points, and a heavy reliance on mobile devices.

Also Read: Are millennials really returning to new car showrooms?

Mobile: Consumers are increasingly using mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) to research and purchase vehicles. A 2015 J.D. Power study found that 51 per cent of new-vehicle Internet shoppers use a mobile device to research to help them find a vehicle at the best price.

This increased use of mobile devices for car shopping continues to impact dealership visits: The average number of dealership visits for car shoppers is now 1.5, compared to five visits a decade ago.

Also Read: Websites reflect a new age of retailing


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