The technology is effective. The question is, how badly do consumers want it?
At the Chevy dealership, affordability is important. The president, Gary Gilchrist, said that “for our buyers it depends on how sensitive their budgets are.”
“If they can get more safety bang for the buck,” he said, “they’ll jump at it.”
Premium buyers are less restricted. Tom Schroeder, sales manager at Bob Byers Volvo, finds two kinds of customers. The majority of showroom traffic knows about and requests new technology. “But older customers in for their fifth or sixth Volvo can be surprised and say, ‘I don’t want this technology, I don’t understand it, I don’t like it,’” he said. “That’s a minority, a much smaller group these days. And after we slow the education process down, they embrace it.”
As she eyed a Volvo XC90, Maria Teich of Seattle said it had been eight years since she last bought a vehicle.
“Technology is massively different,” she said. “There are bells and whistles everywhere in the car. Auto braking is something I am looking for in a car because humans are error-prone.”
Mr. Schroeder said it was hard to sell a car without a convenience package that included Pilot Assist, a semiautonomous feature that can take control for short distances. “Most want it, especially now that it works at up to 80 mile an hour.”
At Gilchrist, Jeff Brese of North Tacoma arrived in a 2000 Ford F-150. His new ride is a Silverado Crew Cab pickup. He has mixed feelings about its advanced technology.
“Apple CarPlay is nice and all, but I’m one of the few people on the planet with a Windows phone,” he said. (CarPlay displays a simplified version of an iPhone’s home screen so selected functions can be used more safely while driving).
He tows a boat, so he is most excited about the hauling power. With cylinder deactivation that shuts down half the 6.2-liter V-8 engine while cruising, the Silverado should give him better fuel economy than the less-powerful Ford. The backup camera will help him attach a trailer solo.
He’s ambivalent about the Silverado’s automatic braking system but understands its value. “The friend buying my Ford owns a Volvo S.U.V.,” he said. “He was driving around a blind corner near my house when a pedestrian ran out in front of him. The car automatically stopped, missing him. You have to respect that.”
Jacob Hinton, an Army private first class stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord south of Tacoma, was taking delivery of a 2017 Chevy Malibu, trading in a 2011 Kia Optima. He said he was unimpressed with advanced technology.
“Drivers should pay attention to the road and not depend on robot braking or steering,” he said. “I don’t trust them.”
He was most impressed with the Malibu’s touch-screen display and the good sound system. Although he is an iPhone owner, the standard Apple CarPlay did not influence his…