Car features and options

Car manufacturers should focus more on basic, practical features than fancy options

16 July 2012

Car manufacturers should focus more on basic, practical features than fancy options

Car manufacturers should focus more on basic, practical features than fancy options

New research from the AA shows that the vast majority (86%) of drivers want car manufacturers to go back to basics with less emphasis on an extensive, and often expensive, options list.

As manufacturers have trimmed costs, many car models now forgo once standard, practical features like two reversing lights and a temperature gauge.

However, an AA/Populus poll of 21,202 AA members shows that these basic features are more highly valued than ‘premium’ ones like heated seats or rain-sensing wipers

While customers benefit from the savings that the manufacturers can pass on by removing some of these features, our members tell us it’s gone too far on some models and they want practical over frills

Andy Smith, AA patrol of the year

Andy Smith, AA patrol of the year, says: “While customers benefit from the savings that the manufacturers can pass on by removing some of these features, our members tell us it’s gone too far on some models and they want practical over frills.

"Having two reversing lights makes it easier to reverse down a dim narrow lane, for example, and a temperature gauge can help indicate when the engine is struggling say when towing or crawling up a hill in heavy traffic.”

Features drivers would happily do without

Despite the British weather, heated seats is the feature most respondents (71%) would happily do without on a modern car, while an electric driver window was considered the least dispensable (9%).

Top 10

  • Heated seats - 71%
  • Electric parking brake - 70%
  • Electric adjustment on seats - 66%
  • High intensity discharge headlights (Xenon) - 57%
  • Rain-sensing wipers - 56%
  • Built-in satellite navigation - 56%
  • Cruise control - 54%
  • Engine stop-start system - 53%
  • Automatic headlights - 52%
  • Parking sensors - 37%

Men vs women

The survey results also show that women are more willing than men to sacrifice car creature comforts and gizmos. Men are less likely to part with heated seats, air-conditioning, parking sensors, electric wing mirrors, electric passenger windows, cruise control and a trip computer; while women place greater importance on a heated windscreen, electric parking brake, rain-sensing wipers and automatic headlights.

Although looking under the bonnet of a modern car can be a baffling experience for many, drivers shouldn’t be put off as the basics such as checking oil and coolant levels, tyre tread and pressures etc. haven’t changed

Andy Smith, AA patrol of the year

Maintenance checks

Many modern cars have advanced engine management and other warning systems that alert the driver to problems with the vehicle, for example, oil level, faulty light bulbs and tyre pressure sensors.

More than a quarter of respondents (26%) say they would carry out maintenance and safety checks less frequently if their car had such systems, while around a fifth (21%) show a degree of distrust saying they would actually do more frequent checks.

Andy Smith says: “Drivers should bear in mind that while these systems are very useful they are no substitute for regular servicing and maintenance checks, which we estimate could prevent up to half of breakdowns.

“Although looking under the bonnet of a modern car can be a baffling experience for many, drivers shouldn’t be put off as the basics such as checking oil and coolant levels, tyre tread and pressures etc. haven’t changed."

(16 July 2012)


Source: an AA/Populus online poll of 21,202 AA members conducted between 23-27 April 2012. Populus is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.