Can market-customized car features disrupt the market order?

Some of us might be familiar with traffic rules in Germany, such as the requirement that left-turning vehicles yield to oncoming traffic at intersections, or right before left (rechts vor links). German car assistant systems are programmed to follow these rules. For a German driver, this is nothing unusual, as they expect their car to stop in such situations.

However, for Chinese drivers, it can be a source of frustration. Many Chinese drivers tend to disregard these rules, following a principle more akin to "those who drive faster have the right of way." 

This highlights one of the most crucial user needs for drivers in China: travel efficiency, or, to put it more bluntly, "let me go first, I am good at driving, and I don't care about traffic rules." 

During usability tests for driving assistance, the most frequently mentioned negative feedback about a feature is that it is "inflexible and doesn't suit the Chinese market." Conversely, the most often mentioned purchase trigger is: "This brand understands what Chinese consumers need." 

 However, what users want from "more flexible and market-customized" features often violates traffic rules. 

I wonder, will a car manufacturer dare to take the first step and develop this so-called "market-customization" that secretly violates traffic rules? Are we now in a “sort of” Prisoner's Dilemma (Two people face choices where cooperating benefits both, but self-interest often leads them to betray each other, resulting in a worse outcome for both.)? 

 I will use the "let-me-go-first intersection assistant" as an example: 

  • If all manufacturers offer a "follow-the-rule intersection assistant," they all appear equally "bad," and none gains an advantage.
  • But when one manufacturer develops the "let-me-go-first intersection assistant," 
  • they win the hearts of customers, while other manufacturers face financial loss.
  • At the same time, the "follow-the-rule intersection assistant" becomes useless as the rules are broken. 
  • Other manufacturers may consider altering their strategies to catch up. 

  • When more than one manufacturer offers the "let-me-go-first intersection assistant," 
  • they might appear to be "equally good" at first glance.
  • However, since the rules are entirely disregarded, the assistant becomes useless, returning all manufacturers to a level where they are equally "bad," and no one wins. 

 Is nobody winning in this situation? And how should we define “winning”?

On the one hand, I genuinely hope that car assistants can indeed assist drivers in easing the challenges of driving in large cities, getting them to their destinations as quickly as possible.

On the other hand, I also hope that developers prioritize safety as well as compliance with rules over financial considerations and less beneficial user demands. 

Time will tell and we will make sure to keep you informed about further innovations.  Follow us in LinkedIn.

Spiegel Institut conducts market and consumer research studies all over the world, we do not only offer the results but also explain the cultural differences to explain the results so that our clients can have a meta-understanding of the culture and society. 

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Author: Yue Liu, Spiegel Institut Ingolstadt

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