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Safety-related equipment, such as side-impact airbags, remains a top priority for new vehicle buyers in the United States, according to the JD Power and Associates 2005 Feature Contenting Report.

The study examines 49 vehicle features in two categories: traditional and emerging. Traditional technologies are those that are well established in the market, such as anti-lock brakes, multi CD changers and four-/all-wheel-drive options. Emerging features are those such as active cornering headlight systems, MP3 playback capabilities and satellite radio.

Among emerging features included in the 2005 report, side impact airbags have the highest market penetration at 46% and the highest desirability among consumers at 82%. Penetration for side impact airbags has been increasing at a constant rate – up 8% from 2004. Demand is also high for other emerging safety-related features, including stability control, electronic traction control and run-flat tyres.

“Although demand is high for safety-related features, the gap between consumers who have such features and those who desire them is still very large,” said a JD spokesman.

“Consumers have expressed that they are willing to pay generously for cutting-edge safety technologies. By increasing safety-related options on new vehicles, manufacturers will satisfy consumer demand and yield greater returns on their investments.”

Six new features are examined in the 2005 report, including manually adjustable driver lumbar support; power adjustable lumbar support; power adjustable passenger lumbar support; and Sirius and XM satellite radio.

Nearly 40% of consumers say they would like satellite radio in their next new vehicle, making it one of the fastest-growing features in the industry. While 17% of respondents purchased satellite radio for their new vehicle – a 6% increase from 2004 – desirability has dramatically increased by 20%.

Among traditional features, anti-lock brakes have the highest penetration and desirability for a third consecutive year. With market penetration at 87%, manufacturers have essentially met consumer demand for this feature. Automatic transmission and split fold-down seats follow anti-lock brakes in penetration and desirability among traditional features.

The report is based on responses from more than 115,000 owners of new 2005 and early-release 2006 model-year vehicles.