Every auto brand has an image to uphold, a claim to fame. Jeeps are rugged, Mercedes-Benz cars are long-lasting, Hondas are reliable -- or so marketers would have us believe.
For years, Volvo's buzzword has been "safety". Mention to co-workers, neighbors, or family members that auto safety is your #1 concern when shopping for a new ride, and many of those folks will probably steer you toward Volvo.
But that way of thinking may be changing. A study conducted by the website CarSafetyRules reveals that today's consumers put as much or more faith in tech companies like Apple and Google than in safety-minded automakers like Volvo.
The study involved 1,000 consumers who had bought a new vehicle in the U.K. within the past three years. Respondents were asked to rank a number of companies on their ability to improve auto safety.
When all the votes were tallied, Apple came out on top, receiving a #1 rank from 21% of those surveyed. Google came in second at 19.8%, with Volvo in third, just a tenth of point behind Google at 19.7%. Mercedes was the only other automaker to receive a substantial score from survey participants.
Interestingly, women heavily favored Apple, with 26% giving it the #1 spot. Their #2 choice was a little bleaker: 23% of women said none of the brands included on the survey would improve auto safety. Google and Volvo tied for third place among women, earning 17% each.
Among men, Google and Volvo shared the #1 berth, with 23% of the vote. Mercedes ranked second with 20%, and Apple came in fairly distant third, at 17%.
But while respondents expressed favorable views of tech companies, they weren't particularly interested in those companies' latest and greatest inventions. For example, many respondents seemed aware that Google is developing an autonomous vehicle, but few said they wanted to own or even ride in such a car. Vehicle-to-vehicle technology also failed to generate much enthusiasm among survey participants. (That said, interest in self-driving vehicles and V2V tech will almost certainly climb as both products become more mainstream.)
For now, consumers appear most interested in safety features that already exist on an increasing range of vehicles -- features like brake-assist and lane-assist.
Google and Apple should be very happy with the survey's results. Clearly, consumers believe that tomorrow's safety features are just as likely -- if not more likely -- to come from tech companies as from automakers.
Volvo, on the other hand, has some work to do if it's going to maintain its image as a safety-minded innovator. Will its new Chinese owners help or hinder that process? We'll keep you posted.