Ability to sync your phone a key consideration.

Fuel economy, horsepower, number of transmission speeds? Those specs could take a figurative backseat to smartphone connectivity for most car shoppers. That’s according to a new study that says, according to Nissan, more than a quarter of new-car buyers pay more attention to phone technology than any other car feature.

The study found that 28 percent of car buyers prioritize connectivity above anything else when buying a new car. In fact, 13 percent of people surveyed said they would not buy a specific car if it lacked internet connectivity features. At the same time, however, 37 percent of survey respondents said they wouldn’t want connected-car features because of privacy concerns, and 54 percent said they’re worried their car could be hacked.

Still, for people who spend a lot of time behind the wheel, staying connected within the car is a big deal. Twenty percent of those surveyed said they’d switch to another car brand in order to have better in-car connectivity. But that figure rose to 41 percent for drivers who drive more than 20 hours per week, signaling that phone connectivity becomes more important for people who spend more time driving.

With smartphone integration so important to shoppers, automakers are investing heavily in testing and developing connectivity systems. Nissan, for instance, has one engineer in the U.K. with more than 40 different phones that he uses to test the compatibility of the company’s in-car interfaces.

“My job is to make sure anyone who walks into a Nissan showroom anywhere in Europe doesn’t walk out again because a car they want to buy won’t pair with their phone,” Nissan engineer Patrick Keenan said in a statement.

Based on these survey results, his fear has serious merit to it, as difficulty pairing a smartphone to a new car could easily send a shopper to a rival showroom.

Source: Nissan

Gallery: Phone connectivity a top priority for new-car shoppers, survey says

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Just how much our smartphones rule our lives has been revealed for the first time. Car buyers admit they can like everything about a new model – the styling, price, fuel economy and how it drives – yet will still walk out of the showroom because it won’t connect properly with their beloved mobile phone.

A study, used by Nissan to understand the importance of developing state-of-the-art infotainment systems in crossovers such as the Qashqai, Juke and X-Trail, reveals:

  • 28% of new car buyers prioritise car connectivity over other features, such as fuel efficiency
  • 13% would not buy a car that’s not connected to the internet
  • 20% would switch to another car brand for better connectivity
  • That rises to 41% for drivers who spend more than 20 hours a week in their car

The research has led to significant investment by Nissan to make sure phones integrate seamlessly – vital as demand for data and downloads expands. Leading the European team is Patrick Keenan… known within Nissan as ‘the man with 40 phones’.

Patrick explained: “Today’s new cars have a lifecycle of five or six years before a new version is launched, but a mobile phone will only be on the market for less than two years before it’s replaced. Keeping cars and phones talking to each other is the crux of my job.”

Patrick’s priority is to ensure that, when it comes to consumer tech, Nissan is always one step ahead of the game. His team uses a network of industry contacts to predict future trends, as well as ensuring that the latest Nissan dashboard hardware and software works with the vast majority of existing and older handsets.

Based at Nissan’s European Technical Centre in Cranfield, UK, Patrick’s desk drawers are packed with dozens of phones, which he uses to develop and fine-tune connectivity. He makes and receives hundreds of test calls a day as he works on future Nissan vehicles.

“My job is to make sure anyone who walks into a Nissan showroom anywhere in Europe doesn’t walk out again because a car they want to buy won’t pair with their phone,” said Patrick.

Part of the future automotive landscape is Autonomous Drive. Nissan is already establishing itself as a global leader in the emerging technology, and ‘ProPilot 1.0’ (single-lane autonomous highway driving) will debut in Europe on the Nissan Qashqai during 2017. 

Outstanding connectivity and data integration are vital pieces of the jigsaw, and Patrick is part of a global team of Nissan engineers which is working on developing connected vehicle architectures that have safety and security as their top priority.