Automotive media highlights - March 2024

Automotive media highlights - March 2024

The Briefing

18 March 2024
11 minute read
  Key highlights
  • New reports indicate that some cars may be collecting data and sharing it with third parties using in-vehicle apps. 
  • Inconvenient EV charging options are a widespread barrier to adoption, but many startups are working to change that. 
  • Chinese automakers are looking to expand globally, but many Western countries are tightening regulations around imports due to security concerns. 
  • Safety remains a major concern for autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles, even as they become more mainstream. 
  • With the continued popularity of RVs, many companies are releasing high-tech new models and innovative new concepts for these long-haul travel vehicles. 

Some cars may be sharing consumer driving information with third parties, prompting privacy concerns. 

An increasing number of new car models come with smart features that connect to the internet. These features are designed to create a smoother driving experience — for example, many cars now use the internet to provide navigation, weather reports, entertainment, and more. Volkswagen is even adding ChatGPT functionality to its cars, setting the stage for more in-car AI features in the future. 

However, these features also collect a huge amount of valuable consumer data. New reports indicate that consumers aren’t fully aware of how this data is being used. One of the most notable examples of this is OnStar Smart Driver, a feature from GM designed to help you drive more safely. The app monitors driving behavior and gives suggestions on how to improve, such as reducing speed or braking more smoothly. 

However, a recent New York Times investigation revealed that GM was sharing this data with LexisNexis and other data collection companies, who then sold that information to auto insurance companies. This led to unexpected increases in monthly premium costs for some consumers. OnStar Smart Driver’s user agreement does not clarify this data-sharing policy, and many drivers might not even know how to turn it on and off. 


GM isn’t the only car company that has a data-sharing agreement with LexisNexis. Many other manufacturers have similar safety apps in their vehicles that collect valuable behavioral data. Subaru, Kia, and Mitsubishi all have agreements with LexisNexis, while Honda, Ford, and Hyundai have agreements with a similar company called Verisk. 

As this information becomes public knowledge, it could change the way that consumers interact with their vehicles. Specifically, drivers might avoid interacting with the smart technology in their cars in fear of accidentally increasing their insurance premiums or sharing sensitive personal data. 



Startups are looking to make electric vehicle charging more accessible. 

One of the biggest barriers to widespread EV adoption is accessible charging options, especially in the United States. Many consumers worry that they won’t be able to find a charger when they need one, and stations around the country struggle with regular charging errors and connectivity issues. Research indicates that 55% of failed charging sessions are due to a lack of station connectivity, while 38% are due to internal station faults or errors. Additionally, not all cars are compatible with all charging stations. 


Tesla’s Supercharger network, which is widely considered to be the most reliable of the current options, has historically only been accessible to Tesla customers. The brand recently finalized a deal with Ford to open up their charging network to future Ford EV products. However, it will take time for the network to expand their connectivity, which leaves current customers without many viable options. 

However, there are several startup companies looking to solve these EV charging challenges. For example, Xeal is developing technology to make EV charging more reliable by using cryptography to secure each charging session. This addresses the connectivity issues that many charging stations currently struggle with. 

Another frustrating part of the charging experience is the complexity of the cables involved. Level 2 chargers, which are typically used in residential settings and long-term parking areas, are typically heavy and bulky, making them more difficult to handle than a standard gas pump. itselectric is a startup that is addressing this problem with detachable EV charging cables, which allow EV owners to charge much more easily. itselectric is also developing a network of curbside charging stations powered by electricity from nearby property owners. Property owners then earn money when drivers charge at these stations. Expanding the charging network is another way to increase accessibility with this technology. 

Finally, vsNEW is a new battery health report tool designed for EVs. While this doesn’t address charging problems directly, it does give EV owners an easy way to monitor the health of their battery. It also makes shopping for used EVs much easier, as consumers can evaluate the battery life of a car before purchase to avoid any unpleasant surprises. The tool is a small plug-in device that collects data from the vehicle and sends it to vsNEW, who compile a report and send it directly to the consumer. 



Many Western countries are tightening regulations on Chinese car imports. 

As tensions between China and the United States remain high, many Western countries are taking steps to heavily regulate Chinese car imports. For example, the United States Commerce Department is launching an investigation into potential national security risks stemming from Chinese cars. This investigation was sparked by Chinese manufacturers like Chery, BYD, and SAIC Motors expanding their manufacturing operations into Mexico, which could allow them to sell cars in the US in the future. 


Lawmakers in both the US and the EU have expressed interest in increasing tariffs on Chinese vehicles. In addition to potential security concerns, some lawmakers are concerned about these manufacturers driving down prices, which could cause problems for local manufacturers. This comes as many insurance providers in the UK have announced concerns with Chinese cars, saying a lack of part availability and knowledge could make them very expensive to insure. However, Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz executives recently spoke out against these tariffs in the EU, stating that all manufacturers should have access to a free and fair economy. 

The Chinese car market is growing at a rapid pace and could soon rival that of other global auto leaders. In particular, China is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of electric vehicle batteries. Chinese companies have also been more successful in developing autonomous driving technology than many of their international counterparts. Significant sanctions against Chinese companies could have a ripple effect through the global auto market should they come to fruition. Although regulators have their concerns about Chinese vehicles, consumers might be more interested in them, particularly if they come with a low price tag as many have speculated. This could create an interesting conflict between government regulators and the consumer market. 


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Recent evaluations identify important safety concerns for autonomous vehicles. 

For many years now, autonomous vehicles have been touted as one of the next major innovations in the automotive industry. However, government regulators and legislators still aren’t sure about the safety of these self-driving vehicles in their current state and are taking steps to regulate them. Independent testers have also issued safety warnings for many semi-autonomous vehicles. 

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recently issued a new rating program for semi-autonomous driving systems from major auto manufacturers. These tests were conducted on 14 systems, 11 of which failed the safety tests. Lexus Teammate with Advanced Drive was the only system to receive an acceptable safety rating, while GM Super Cruise and Nissan Pro-Pilot Assist with Navi-Link both received marginal safety ratings. The IIHS indicated that none of these programs took appropriate steps to ensure that drivers remained focused while these programs were in use, which could lead to accidents. 


There have been several notable autonomous vehicle accidents in recent years, including an October 2023 incident where a woman was dragged under a Cruise vehicle in San Francisco that failed to stop. In the past, autonomous vehicle companies have been allowed to test their vehicles in California with approval from the California DMV and the California Public Utilities Commission, both of whom have been very liberal in expanding self-driving car operations. This meant that local governing bodies and concerned citizens had very little say in these approvals. 

A new California Senate bill would allow cities and local governments to set their own regulations and permits for self-driving cars. If this bill passes, it would give California cities the power to address some of the safety concerns that come with autonomous vehicle testing. This could also help mitigate anti-AV sentiment, which has been building among residents in San Francisco and in other cities as a result of ongoing AV testing programs. 



Exciting new high-tech RV options are hitting the market.

When you think of RVs, you might not necessarily think “exciting” or “innovative”. However, there are several new RV models hitting the market that could change that. These cars are built to make long-haul road trips safer and more comfortable. Many options are also designed to be more energy-efficient than RVs of previous generations. We’ve seen an influx of new RVs over the last few years, as many consumers decided to hit the road in them during the COVID-19 pandemic. The trend continues this month with new vehicle releases and proposed concepts. 

The first of these exciting new models is a high-tech aluminum trailer from Bowlus Rivet. The trailer has its own electric power management system and is self-parking. While the trailer hasn’t hit the market yet, Bowlus Rivet is currently taking pre-orders. 

Another exciting RV model is the Krug Rhino XL, which is built with a Mercedes-Benz chassis cab. This vehicle’s claim to fame is its durability, and it can handle off-roading with a semi-automatic tire inflation system and all-wheel-drive options. The vehicle also comes in three different configurations, so users can customize it based on the amount of space they need. 

Airstream and Porsche have also recently released concept art for a futuristic new camping trailer. The trailer is sleek and compact, and it’s also intended to be compatible with a variety of electric vehicle options. The concept is aerodynamic with soft, modern interior design features. While this collaboration is currently just in the concept stage, it would be a luxury product should it ever hit the market. 

What to investigate further

As a consultant, understanding consumer behaviors and sentiments is key. This is particularly true for the automotive industry, as a new car is a large (and potentially life-changing) purpose for the average consumer. Automotive technology and regulations are evolving at a rapid pace, which means that consumers are rethinking their relationship with cars as well. 

Auto companies will need to understand how this changing landscape affects consumer behavior. Factors to consider include: 
  • Safety and privacy: The safety and privacy risks of smart auto features are coming to light. How will these risks affect consumers’ willingness to purchase new vehicles? 
  • Chinese imports: While Chinese car imports haven’t yet made it to the US, they are starting to become available in parts of Europe and in other major markets. How will current political tensions affect the perception of these cars? 
  • EV charging: How can EV companies help consumers feel more comfortable with EV charging networks and change public perceptions? 

If you’d like to launch a survey on these topics or others, Potloc would be happy to partner with you. Get in touch with our team today to learn more. 

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