The global car user’s willingness to invest in solutions against pathogens on interior surfaces and in-cabin air is growing, according to a survey by Novi-based Asahi Kasei America.
The results of the survey reflect how the COVID-19 pandemic has changed mobility, and the car user’s perception of safety and comfort inside automotive vehicles.
“This survey sheds light on the lasting importance of clean automotive interiors as we transition to a post-COVID-19 era,” says Iichiro Kitsuda, executive vice president of strategic planning and marketing at Asahi Kasei America. “Automotive manufacturers will need to adapt to the users concerns and adjust to the high demand for clean automotive interiors not only in private cars, but in all future mobility concepts.”
Recent surveys show that the use of public transport and ride sharing services has declined severely. In contrast, the demand for automobiles to have safer interiors that provide a low risk for infection is increasing. The survey suggests that the pandemic will have a lasting effect on existing and future mobility concepts, as well as on the materials and technologies used inside vehicles.
As the main interface between the user and the car, surface materials are defining how the driver and the passengers perceive the automotive interior and, more importantly, the driving experience itself. In the past, automotive interiors needed to be comfortable, attractive, and smooth to the touch. The COVID-19 pandemic is adding a new dimension to this topic, clearly raising the needs for the overall cleanliness and safety against invisible threats inside the car.
This development also was confirmed by the survey conducted by Asahi Kasei and the Cologne-based market research institute SKOPOS. Nearly 500 vehicle users in each of the global automotive core markets in United States, Germany, China, and Japan were asked about their preferences in regard to the future automotive interior.
One key finding of the survey was the importance of cleanliness inside the car. For the United States respondents, 56 percent of car users put a great emphasis on this topic — valuing it even higher than connectivity, the intuitive operation, or the personalization of the car. The same results can be observed in the other markets as well.
While the perception of cleanliness is subjective, it becomes clear that this topic is influencing car users around the world. While premium and lasting interior looks climb in importance, more people are increasingly aware of the surfaces they touch and the air they breathe — especially in a confined space like a car. When asked about features they would consider beneficial in their next car, 80 percent of the respondents in the USA pointed out “surface and seating materials that are easy to wash,” followed by water and dirt repellent surfaces,” (72 percent) and “advanced air filtration system filtering the outside air entering the vehicle” (68 percent). The same features are also clearly influencing car users in Germany and China. In addition, 87 percent of car users in China see a benefit in an “advanced air filtration system filtering the air within the vehicle,” and 83 percent in “surfaces that can eliminate viruses in places you touch the most.”
Car users’ accelerating needs for hygienic features are also reflected in the readiness to pay for solutions that provide safe surfaces and air inside the car. For example, nearly 90 percent of respondents in the U.S. who are looking to purchase a large or luxury vehicle would be willing to spend $750 for a “surface protect” package and nearly 80 percent of truck and SUV buyers would be willing to spend the same amount.
A similar trend can be seen in regard to features that contribute to air safety. When purchasing a new car, nearly 90 percent of USA respondents who are looking to purchase a large or luxury vehicle and more than 80 percent of truck and SUV buyers would be willing to spend the same amount to ensure safe air inside the passenger compartment.
“The data in this study confirms that consumers are willing and ready to pay more for advanced technologies when they shop for cars — as long as it boasts heightened safety from both threats we can and cannot see,” Kitsuda says. “This is where Asahi Kasei’s Healthy Car Portfolio shines through: we are proactively developing products that can be used to keep both private and shared vehicles cleaner and safer.”