2023 Automotive sector trends and insights from YouGov research
December 7th, 2023, Janice Fernandes

2023 Automotive sector trends and insights from YouGov research

In this piece, we round-up the key trends and insights our data uncovered in the automotive world in 2023.

Car buying in the age of rising prices

In 2023, the global impact of escalating costs of living is unmistakable, and that’s seen in the automotive sector. A striking 18% of respondents across 17 countries acknowledge a heightened awareness of rising car prices over the past six months. At the beginning of the year more than two-thirds (68%) of consumers said they anticipate a surge in the cost of new or used cars within the next 12 months. And if faced with budget constraints, 45% express a willingness to put eco-friendly car preferences on the back burner.

In the quest for the perfect ride, consumers in 17 diverse markets rely on more than just advice from friends and family (50%). In terms of online research Autotrader dominates in Great Britain (60%), while Carmax.com and Cars.com lead the charge in the US (36% each).

As auto manufacturers expand their offerings, we explore consumer preferences when comparing identical models at identical price points (hybrid cars for the win), preferences for in-person purchases, the desired features for a new car among global respondents, the shift in priorities among US and UK parents, the aftermath of a product recall in US and UK, and how families decide on a car together.

Electric vehicles: The inevitable future

YouGov's data unveils a clear consensus among British drivers, with 60% asserting that electric cars are the inevitable future of the motor industry. This sentiment is evident among brands not only in Britain but across the Atlantic in the United States as well.

A seismic shift is underway, with diverse industries embracing electric vehicles (EVs) — from gas companies acquiring EV charging firms to retail giants like Tesco and Walmart investing in EV charging bays, and auto manufacturers like General Motors (Hummer EV SUVs) and Mercedes-Benz boldly venturing into the realm of electric mobility.

While the momentum toward EVs is undeniable, a closer look at YouGov Profiles data on current electric car ownership reveals a socio-economic tilt. In Britain, electric cars are predominantly owned by higher income earners (33%), a notable contrast to the ownership rate of the general population (18%) of drivers. In another YouGov analysis, we see that electric car owners are more likely than petrol-owning counterparts to upgrade the interior of their cars (73% vs. 64%).

Yet, the electric revolution is not without its challenges. Approximately two-thirds of UK EV owners report grappling with the limited availability of charging stations in specific areas (69%), while nearly half (49%) contend with persistent range anxiety. As electric vehicles surge into prominence, these hurdles pose critical considerations for both current and prospective EV enthusiasts.

Second-hand cars: A surging demand

In the ever-evolving landscape of consumer preferences, the importance of a car's resale value takes the spotlight, with nearly two-thirds of respondents (64%) highlighting its significance when choosing a new vehicle. Dive into the full story to unravel the nuanced perspectives of consumers in individual countries.

While resale value remains a pivotal factor in the new car market, a parallel narrative unfolds in the realm of second-hand cars. The upheavals caused by pandemic-induced car production constraints and chip shortages gave rise to an unexpected surge in demand for used cars. A YouGov survey spanning 18 international markets reveals that second-hand cars emerge as the most sought-after pre-owned product, with around half of global respondents (51%) expressing a willingness to consider purchasing used cars.

Delving deeper into the dynamics of pre-owned vehicles, research spotlights a distinctive sentiment regarding used electric vehicles in the UK and US. The data reveals that over half of respondents in both markets (54% in the UK and 52% in the US) voice reluctance to consider purchasing a used EV. Find out more about the motivations and deterrents that shape the attitudes of UK and US consumers toward second-hand EVs.

Ad campaigns: Innovative strategies leaving an impression

This year a few auto brands left a lasting impression with their innovative ad campaigns. Hyundai's 2023 campaign, challenging the British public to correctly pronounce the brand's name, and Mercedes-Benz's strategic partnership with SUPERPLASTIC, secured the car makers a spot in YouGov’s Advertisers of the Month, which reveals the brands with the highest growth in Ad Awareness scores every month.

Building on the success of these campaigns, our in-depth exploration into the brand health of both Hyundai and Mercedes-Benz provides a comprehensive overview that you can delve into.

Speaking about advertising, Tesla's CEO, Elon Musk, made headlines earlier this year by revealing plans for the electric vehicle (EV) giant to dip its toes into advertising for the first time in its 19-year history. A YouGov analysis uncovers key marketing opportunities for Tesla as it embarks on this unprecedented venture.

Amidst this flurry of brand endorsements and marketing maneuvers, a crucial question arises: do prospective car buyers truly take notice? The broader inquiry delves into the types of brand sponsorships that capture the attention of global car buyers. Drawing on data from YouGov Global Profiles, we unearth intriguing variations in the awareness of different sponsorship types among consumers in 18 markets.

AI in the driver's seat

Artificial intelligence (AI) has become a significant player in the automotive industry, with car makers like Mercedes-Benz teaming up with Microsoft to test in-car ChatGPT AI. Yet, customer sentiments appear divided, with 30% thinking AI will make driving better in the next five years and an equal share thinking it will make it worse (27%).

Another YouGov survey reveals that consumers are also divided about their opinions of self-driving cars with 41% expressing worry and 47% saying they are not worried.

Even the integration of customer service chatbots faces skepticism, with only one in 10 consumers finding them useful when interacting with car brands.

Fuel: Navigating environmental and economic frontiers

Environment and economic effects of fuel have been other major points of contention in 2023. Roughly a third of consumers (34%) believe that alternative fuels will gain popularity, with 25% anticipating it will replace traditional petrol and diesel engines.

For now, US and UK consumers who own gas-powered cars prioritize refueling from brands offering low prices and convenient locations. However, quality concerns prompt almost two-fifths of US consumers (38%) to occasionally switch gas stations, while the share is about 25% for UK consumers. Explore how US and UK consumers prefer paying for gas and what they purchase at gas stations after refueling, shedding light on the intricate choices consumers make at the pump (read more about fuel choices in the US and UK).

However the auto-sector moves, whether powered by petrol or batteries, YouGov will continue to monitor the road ahead. The most recent is Amazon’s and Hyundai’s newly announced partnership, to sell cars on the e-commerce platform. Read more about whether people are willing to buy a car on an online marketplace like Amazon.

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To read YouGov’s latest intelligence on the auto sector explore here.

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