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When it comes to buying a new car, interior and exterior styling as well as performance among other considerations appeals to customers, even as fuel economy continues to be the key draw, as per a global automotive study. However, small car buyers are increasingly regarding the audio, entertainment, navigation category as a key determinants of vehicle appeal, JD Power, the US-based global marketing information services firm, said in its 2017 India Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) study. This is also the case for the utility vehicle segment, where these features are gaining relevance over the past five years and is among the top five weighted APEAL categories, the survey revealed. "Although fuel economy continues to be a key driver of overall appeal in India, new-vehicle buyers are increasingly opting for added features that enhance convenience and safety," Shantanu Nandi Majumdar, Director at J D Power said. The study is based on responses from 8,571 new-vehicle owners who purchased their vehicle from November 2016 through July 2017 and includes 83 models from 17 makes. The study was carried out from May to September 2017 in 40 cities across the country. With increasing disposable income, some consumers may be willing to trade-off fuel economy for added performance, convenience and safety features, Majumdar said. "Manufacturers that are able to differentiate their products on these key attributes are likely to have a stronger brand connection with consumers in this market," he added. According to the study, vehicles that have been purchased as an upgrade to a previously owned vehicle have an average APEAL score of 880 points (on a 1,000-point scale), which is 14 points higher than the overall industry average. Among the reasons for purchasing such a vehicle, more upgraders cite exterior design (57 per cent), interior style and comfort (59 per cent) and quality of workmanship (36 per cent), compared with non-upgraders. The study also revealed that airbag and anti-lock braking system (ABS) fitment rates have increased by 12 percentage points and seven percentage points, respectively, from 2016, while attributing the growth to consumer demand. In 2017, 63 per cent of all new vehicles sold have driver and front passenger airbags, while 57 per cent have ABS, it said adding with airbags and ABS fitted into one of every two small cars sold, the rate of growth has been steepest in the small car segment. As per the study, as much as 17 percent of all new vehicles are equipped with a navigation system, up by 9 percentage points from last year. The proportion of utility vehicles that are fitted with navigation systems has doubled (27 per cent in 2017 as compared to 12 per cent in 2016, with nearly half of all new-launched utility vehicles now having this as a standard feature, the study said. Moreover, there is a high consumer interest in navigation systems as 80 per cent of all new car buyers say they definitely would want this feature on their next vehicle, according to JD Power 2017 APEAL study. "Increasing adoption of navigation and safety-related features in vehicles are indicative of growing consumer interest in connected car technologies and autonomous vehicles," Majumdar said, adding, "This is likely to lead the way for these technologies to be embedded into future vehicle design.