Hybrid petrol-electric vehicles are attracting high levels of interest among Japanese consumers due to increased environmental concerns, according to the latest JD Power Asia Pacific 2003 Japan Automotive Emerging Technologies Study.

This study, now in its second year, assesses consumer familiarity, interest and purchase intent of various emerging technologies that are currently offered on some vehicles or will soon be offered in Japan. JD Power also conducts similar studies in the United States and Europe.

The study finds that 63% of Japanese consumers say they are “definitely” or “probably” interested in hybrid electric vehicles.
Hybrid electric vehicles follows navigation and night vision systems as the top technologies that interest consumers.

“The high publicity of hybrid electric vehicles in Japan has shaped positive perceptions on these vehicles among consumers,” said JD Power Asia Pacific president and CEO Namio Hasumi. “In particular, older consumers are paying more attention to these environmentally friendly vehicles.”

In addition, Japanese consumers tend to rate safety-related technologies high overall, such as night vision, external surround sensing and brake-by-wire systems.

Although new technologies seem to attract many consumers, interest in all features covered in this study drop by some degree when a realistic price point is attached to a given feature. Most notably, while night vision systems garner the second-highest level of interest among all emerging technologies, interest drops by a large margin when a realistic price point is revealed, especially with external surround sensing, navigation systems and night vision systems.

“Although safety features have become more appealing to consumers and increased awareness of the benefits have heightened consumer interest, the high prices of some newly available technologies may deter consumers from purchasing these technologies for their next vehicle,” said Hasumi.

Among the technologies examined, consumers are most familiar with electronic toll collection, with 55% of consumers reporting awareness of this feature. Electronic toll collection was introduced by the Japanese government as a means of controlling traffic congestion on Japan’s major highways. Almost as many consumers are aware of navigation systems. However, awareness levels for the remaining features fall sharply, especially in the case of driver recognition, smart sensing windows and brake-by-wire features, for which less than 5% of consumers report familiarity.

The study is based on responses from 8,328 consumers in Japan who purchased or leased a new vehicle within the last six years.