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Connectivity and Cars: What Consumers Want

Most of us know Facebook as a place to share family photos or check out the latest post about Boo, the world’s cutest dog. It’s also becoming a hot destination for researching new cars (or bemoaning a recently purchased lemon).

According to a study released earlier this month by Capgemini, a multinational consulting company, social media and connectivity plays a huge role for those looking to lay down some coin on a new car. The report, titled “Cars Online 2014,” shows that 62 percent of U.S. consumers are more likely to buy a vehicle if they’ve found positive comments on social media, and just over half — 53 percent — post or will post comments about their vehicle experience on Facebook and other social media channels. The report included more than 10,000 consumers in eight countries: Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

In between posts celebrating Fridays and spoilers for the Mad Men series finale, more and more people are relying on the thumbs-up and thumbs-down world of Facebook and other social media avenues, according to the report. Not too surprisingly, it found that the majority of stateside consumers — 95 percent — use the Internet for researching vehicle features, watching drivers’ satisfaction levels and ratings, and checking OEM (original equipment manufacturer) and dealer reputations for fairness and customer care.

In addition to social media, another kind of connection stands out to buyers: in-car connectivity. Sixty percent of U.S. consumers are more likely to buy a car with the right connected car services.

Why? According to John Bagazinski, the automotive practice lead for Capgemini North America, the dashboard has become the latest item we can’t live without. “A consumer has their smartphone, they have their tablet, laptop, they have a desktop computer at home … this is just another device for them. Just like with their phones, they want their car to make their life more convenient and improve their experience.”

And with the number of cars connected to the Internet expected to soar to 152 million worldwide in 2020 from 23 million today, according to researcher IHS Automotive, consumers are craving connection more than ever before.

Sixty-four percent of drivers are also willing to share information about their vehicle experience — everything from the type of music they’re listening to, diagnostic codes, location, shopping habits, etc. — with the OEM and the dealer. Sharing those details, says Bagazinski, helps the customer, the dealership and the automaker.

For the automaker in particular, Bagazinski explained, this information can lead to better cars. If you can listen to sensors in the car, you can diagnose problems faster and see what’s happening inside a particular vehicle model, especially during the critical launch period.

“If you can improve the vehicle in those critical stages, you can potentially save hundreds of millions of dollars,” he said.

With recalls making headlines, this kind of connectivity may help funnel critical information to manufacturers. They can get real-time information about vehicles and potential problem areas. In turn, they can then make enhancements and engineering changes to the vehicles quickly.

From giving digital high-fives on social media to possibly handing car companies life-saving information, connectivity has never been so useful, for buyers and automakers.

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