One of the major trends noticeable in the automotive industry is the trickling down of innovation from the luxury car segment to the entry level variants segment. Features or amenities that were once introduced in high-end cars, such as anti-lock braking system, power windows and electronic stability system, among others are now available for lower classes of vehicles as well. Both automakers and auto ancillary suppliers leverage the novelty of a luxury car by rendering it as a testing ground for latest innovations so as to understand how consumers react to it. In a way, luxury vehicles have become a low risk prospect for manufacturers to implement new features and technologies. These features are further refined in stages, bringing down the cost, and subsequently finding their way into entry level or mass marketed vehicles. One such feature that is still in its introductory stage is the automatic heating of steering wheel. Though patents have been filed for heated steering wheels way back in the 1960s, actual implementation of such technology is gaining traction in the present market scenario. Similar to heated seats, this feature does not have any implications towards the performance of a vehicle, but is catered as an add-on comfort feature.
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From a customer point of view, heated steering wheels have been introduced in vehicles sold in colder regions to enhance comfort for consumers as it is impractical and cumbersome to engage in the steering function with gloves on. As we are all aware of the fact that drivers spend most of their time steering the vehicle, automakers have implemented controls of various sub-functions into the steering wheel to ensure the hands remain on the wheel for the entire duration of the drive. This factor further necessitates the practicality and usefulness of a heated steering wheel.
The global heated steering wheel market is likely to gain improved revenue returns in the coming years. However, it must also be noted that the market share – in terms of both value and volume – will be higher in economies where the requirement of heated steering wheels leans more towards necessity than as an add-on feature.
Product Definition and Segmentation
A heated steering wheel is designed as any other steering wheel and the differentiating factor is the inclusion of tiny wires that run across the ring of wheel and function as the heating element. The following criteria are taken into consideration while segmenting the heated steering wheel market.
By Product Type:
- With Airbag System
- Without Airbag System
By Vehicle Type:
- Passenger Cars
- Light Commercial Vehicles
- Heavy Commercial Vehicles
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- Less than 14 inches
- 14-17 inches
- More than 17 inches
By Sales Channel:
- Original Equipment Manufacturers
- North America
- Latin America
- Western Europe
- Eastern Europe
- South East Asia & Pacific
- Middle East & Africa
Heated Steering Wheels or Heating Covers?
Manufacturers of heated steering wheels are aware of the fact that the overall acceptance of heated steering wheels in vehicles by consumers has slowed down with the emergence of a slightly disruptive technology, i.e. heating covers. This simple yet versatile product is nothing but a steering wheel cover that can radiate heat to warm hands. The versatility of the product comes from the fact that it can fixed or removed whenever required and can be connected directly to the lighter plug for its operation. It is cheaper in cost as heated steering wheels require additional layers of proper alignment with the system.
Regional Market Outlook
As stated above, the market for heated steering wheels is likely to vary on a regional basis. The installment rate of heated steering wheels in vehicles is as low as 5% for entry level variants to 50% or more for luxury vehicles. These installment rates are expected to further differ for different regions with North America and Western Europe registering higher rates than Asia Pacific and others. Hence, vehicle production in different regions does not give us a clear indication of the market but when coupled with installment rate and customer feedback, clear insights of the heated steering wheel market can be identified.
Global Heated Steering Wheel Market: Key Players
Key players in the global heated steering wheels market are Autoliv Inc., Gentherm Inc., Key Safety Systems, Inc., I.G. Bauerhin GmbH, Symtec Inc., Toyoda Gosei Co., Ltd., and Takata Corporation, among others. These players are actively involved in the manufacture of automotive steering wheels and provide them as a customized product based on the specifications provided by the end user.
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