Salesperson knowledge of teen-specific vehicle safety features

Weast, Rebecca A. / Jenness, James W. / De Leonardis, Doreen
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
May 2020

Objective: Teen drivers experience elevated crash risk compared with experienced adult drivers. Active parental oversight can improve teen driving safety, and several manufacturers have released teen-focused safety features over the past decade. Still, parents don’t always use these systems and often don’t even know their vehicle is equipped. A recent survey found that parents who do know about such systems on their vehicle first learned of them from a salesperson at a dealership. The current study examined how salespeople discuss and sell teen-specific safety systems on vehicles to parents shopping for a new teen driver.
Methods: The study focused on four vehicle brands. Two researchers posed as the parents of a new teen driver who were shopping for a vehicle for their teen. They entered dealerships and conducted semistructured interviews with the salesperson that approached them, using prompts of increasing specificity about their teen driver and their interest in safety, and tracking at what point each salesperson mentioned their brand’s teen-specific systems, what features they mentioned, and how accurate those mentions were.
Results: Thirty of the 40 participating salespeople were able to mention their brand’s teen-specific system at some point during the procedure. Hyundai salespeople most consistently brought up their brand’s teen features, and Chevy salespeople mentioned the most features while Ford salespeople mentioned the fewest. Salespeople often mentioned speed-related features, although the most commonly mentioned features varied by brand. No participating salespeople reported receiving training specifically about their brand’s teen features.
Conclusions: Most salespeople approached did mention their brand’s teen-focused safety systems, but did not usually do so until they had received more targeted prompts. Information these salespeople did share was often vague and general. Salespeople are a key source of information about a vehicle’s specific and relevant safety features, and parents without at least some vague preexisting knowledge about the systems or features that could be available on a vehicle of interest are not likely to leave a dealership with a clear idea of all available features that could aid their efforts to keep their teen drivers safe.