COLOGNE, Germany – Autonomous vehicles may still be a way down the road. But drivers across Europe are showing an increasing appetite for the semi-autonomous technologies that are building blocks towards the cars of the future, according to a new Ford Motor Company study on buying trends in Europe.
This is among the findings from Ford Car Buying Trends 2015, a study of new car buying habits in 22 countries across Europe, highlighting regional trends and national differences. The study shows significant increases in the number of cars with technologies that help drivers to park, avoid collisions, and maintain set speeds and distances from vehicles ahead.
“While manufacturers including Ford are working toward autonomous vehicles, our customers are already embracing many of the smart technologies that make driving and parking easier and safer,” said Roelant de Waard, vice president, Marketing, Sales and Service, Ford of Europe. “We are seeing increasing demand for features that relieve the stresses of driving, and make it more enjoyable – for example, people have very quickly become accustomed to systems that help them to find a suitable parking space and reverse into it.”
Ford Car Buying Trends 2015 also revealed that in the past year, of more than 1,000,000 cars sold in Europe, white was the top colour ahead of black, silver, grey, and blue – the latter being the fastest-growing choice for Ford cars.
Advanced technology on the move
Ford earlier this year announced Ford Smart Mobility, the company’s plan to help change the way the world moves through innovation in connectivity, mobility, autonomous vehicles, customer experience and big data.
A fleet of fully autonomous Ford Fusion Hybrid research vehicles, which use some of the same sensor and computing technology in Ford vehicles today, is in the U.S. undergoing further development and ongoing tests as Ford shifts its autonomous vehicle efforts from a research programme into an advanced engineering project.
Active Park Assist uses sensors and the vehicle’s steering system to help drivers find a suitable space and steer in to it. The system was fitted to more than 1 in 3 (34 per cent) Ford cars in Europe, up from 28 per cent compared with the previous year. In Switzerland this was almost 3 in 4 (72 per cent), followed by the Netherlands (62 per cent), and Spain (61 per cent).
Active City Stop can help reduce the severity of rear-end collisions by automatically applying braking if a driver does not react in time to slowing traffic ahead. In the past year more than 1 in 8 (13 per cent) cars produced were equipped with the system, up from 7 per cent compared with the previous year. The technology was most popular in Sweden (59 per cent), then Norway (58 per cent), and Switzerland (41 per cent).
Adaptive Cruise Control enables drivers to maintain a set distance from the vehicle in front, even if the vehicle is travelling at a slower speed. In the past year more than half of new Ford cars in Europe were equipped with some kind of cruise control technology, rising from 48 per cent to 52 per cent. Turkey led with 86 per cent, ahead of Finland (84 per cent), and Sweden (80 per cent).
Lane Keeping Aid detects an unintentional lane departure and applies steering torque, alerting drivers to direct the vehicle back into. In the past year, 51 per cent of cars sold in Sweden were equipped with the technology, ahead of Norway (28 per cent) and Switzerland (21 per cent). Throughout Europe the number of vehicles sold with Lane Keeping Aid rose by 20 per cent.
Last year, 78 per cent of all Ford vehicles were equipped with SYNC systems – up by 10 per cent year‑over-year compared with the previous year. SYNC 2 can enable drivers to talk to their car using simple, conversational language to operate phone, entertainment, climate and navigation systems, even bringing up a list of local restaurants by saying: “I’m hungry”.
Blue makes an impact
Across Europe, the most popular colour choices were white (23 per cent), black (19 per cent) and silver (16 per cent) – which overtook grey as the third most popular option.
Blue was the fast riser, showing a 63 per cent increase in popularity to be chosen by more than 1 in 8 customers, and climbing to fifth overall.
Turkey was already the country where white was most popular. There, almost 3 in 4 of all new Ford cars are white, up from just over half compared with the previous year. For all but two countries the number one choice was one of the top three – white, black or silver. The exceptions were the Czech Republic and the U.K. where blue took the lead.
Portugal (31 per cent), Norway (28 per cent) and the Netherlands (26 per cent) showed the highest preference for black vehicles; while Ireland (28 per cent), Portugal (25 per cent), Hungary and Poland (21 per cent) were most likely to choose silver. Customers in Hungary also were the most likely to choose a brown car (15 per cent).
Shape of things to come
Most customers in the past year chose a 5-door car (52 per cent), ahead of wagon versions (37 per cent), with both claiming share from 4-door models (11 per cent) compared with the previous year.
The practical wagon body-styles for the Mondeo and Focus appealed to drivers most in Denmark (84 per cent), Germany (81 per cent), and the Netherlands (78 per cent). For the same cars, 5-door versions were most likely to find a home in Greece (96 per cent), Spain (87 per cent) and Britain (83 per cent); while 4-door versions were most popular in Turkey (87 per cent).
Power to the people
Customers today have a wider choice as to how they power their car than ever before. The overwhelming majority (98 per cent) still chose petrol and diesel models.
Petrol was the fuel of choice for 56 per cent of European drivers and nowhere was that more the case than in Russia, where customers chose 96 per cent petrol-powered cars, followed by the Netherlands (87 per cent) and the Czech Republic (83 per cent).
In the past year, more customers in Ireland went for diesel-powered cars (70 per cent) than anywhere else, followed by Turkey and Romania (both 65 per cent).
Preferences for manual versus automatic gearboxes compared with the previous year were almost unchanged. Drivers in all European countries still preferred a manual over an automatic – 83 per cent chose a car with a manual gear stick. In Greece that rose to 97 per cent, and in Ireland to 96 per cent, followed by Poland (95 per cent).
“When it comes to car buyers tastes there are a few things that remain consistent over the years and many aspects that change and evolve,” de Waard said. “We study these changes – and some can be surprising – in order to better serve customers across Europe.”