Photographer: Akos Stiller/Bloomberg

Mercedes, Infiniti Owners Most Likely to Let Car Do Driving

  • MaritzCX survey finds about 48% of drivers shun the technology
  • Some luxury buyers said to view autonomous vehicles as safer

If you drive a Mercedes-Benz or an Infiniti luxury vehicle, you’re probably more willing than most drivers to give up the wheel to a robot, according to a MaritzCX survey.

About 27 percent of owners of Daimler AG’s Mercedes and Nissan Motor Co.’s Infiniti say they are “very interested” in buying a fully self-driving auto when those become available, according to the software and research firm’s survey completed this month. Owners of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV’s Jeep sport utility vehicles and Ram pickups were the least interested, MaritzCX said.

“The luxury-vehicle owners are more willing to accept this technology because they believe safety would be much better in these types of vehicles,” said Shawn St. Clair, the survey author and global syndication director at MaritzCX. “If you’re interested in doing some off-roading in a Jeep or a Ram, you’re not interested in an autonomous vehicle.”

Convincing consumers to accept driverless vehicles is a challenge for automakers and Silicon Valley giants, who are pouring billions of dollars into the technology in a race to get it on the road.

Limited Acceptance

While 94 percent of those surveyed are aware autonomous autos are coming, almost 48 percent aren’t interested in buying one, MaritzCX found. Even among Mercedes and Infiniti owners, more reject than accept the technology. The findings support other recent surveys that show most motorists still aren’t ready to embrace cars that drive themselves.

Equipment failure and autonomous cars becoming disoriented in traffic are among the top concerns among those surveyed, who also cited worries about keeping their vehicle secure from hackers, legal liability, and navigating around pedestrians and bicyclists.

“We have a road map to take to the automakers to say, ‘Here’s what you need to work on if you ever hope to convert your customers to a fully autonomous car,’” St. Clair said. The Lehi, Utah-based firm said it surveyed 12,353 vehicle owners from May through August.

Marketing Edge

Mercedes and Infiniti may have won over more of their owners because they have marketed more heavily about autonomous autos they have coming and semi-autonomous features they already offer, such as automatic braking, St. Clair said.

Mercedes introduced a driverless concept car in 2015 that has been featured at auto shows and in ads. The brand recently pulled a television commercial that consumer advocates criticized as going too far in promoting its semi-autonomous Drive Pilot feature as providing fully self-driving capabilities.

Not all luxury-brand owners are ready to relinquish control of their vehicles. Of brand owners who said they were not interested in the technology, Porsche ranked third with 57 percent and BMW was fourth with 56 percent.

“There is a set of luxury owners who want a performance vehicle that goes from zero to 60 miles per hour in three seconds,” St. Clair said. “Those people are not in a big rush to give over control, if ever.”

Porsche owners seem polarized on the subject: 22 percent of them were very interested in the technology, ranking the brand in a tie for seventh on that list with Mazda, Toyota and Nissan.

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