A network news anchor introduces an internet-connected SUV Roewe RX5 to netizens before the start of an internet-connected car rally race in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province. (Photo by Long Wei / for China Daily)
Survey finds 91% of respondents look for internet-based functionality
Carmakers in China should consider making their vehicles more connected, as the vast majority of customers in the country have shown enthusiasm for the function, according to market researcher JD Power.
The findings, based on a poll of more than 1,500 people nationwide, showed that 91 percent of respondents would choose internet-connected cars when considering their next purchase. More than 50 percent said they were willing to pay 20 percent more for connected cars.
According to the survey, the connectivity-based functions that Chinese consumers value most are road safety monitoring, remote control, vehicle health monitoring, voice recognition and interactive entertainment.
"Vehicles possessing these digital innovations, as well as bringing new driving and mobility experiences, are critical factors for automakers operating in China to consider to attract customers," said Acy Min, a marketing professional at JD Power Asia Pacific Operations.
Many carmakers offer connectivity functions in some models currently available on the market, allowing drivers to turn on air conditioning and start the engine before they even get into their cars. Yet more internet-based functions are being considered for future models.
Volkswagen has plans that by 2019, all models driving off its forecourts will be fully internet-connected. This will include greater functionality, for example, sending a virtual key to a courier so that he or she is able to stow a parcel in the trunk of the car.
Some startups are making connectivity one of their key selling points from day one. Electric carmaker Nio's ES8 SUV can automatically close the windows when it rains and turn on its air purifier system based on onboard air quality conditions.
Chinese consumers are also very open to autonomous driving, according to the JD Power survey.
Despite concerns such as self-driving cars potentially lowering people's interest in higher vehicle performance, or that connected cars might be susceptible to hacking, about 78 percent of the survey respondents are willing to allow artificial intelligence to take the driver's seat.
These findings are in line with a Ford survey, released in December 2017, which found that 83 percent of Chinese people are optimistic about the future of autonomous vehicles. When asked about whether AI will bring more benefits, only 28 percent of respondents in the country believe AI will do more harm than good.
China expects intelligent cars with some autonomous functions to account for 50 percent of new vehicles to be sold in the country by 2020, as part of its efforts to grow into a global power in the sector by 2035, according to a blueprint released by the National Development and Reform Commission earlier this month.