Consumer Reports urges automakers to provide life-saving technology as standard equipment, not bundled with expensive convenience features
WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a new report released today, Consumer Reports investigates the cost of blind spot warning (BSW) technology in today’s most popular large vehicles including certain pickup trucks and SUVs. This technology is designed to detect other vehicles in blind spots and alert drivers to their presence. The report identifies which of these automakers offer BSW and examines the additional costs consumers must pay to make their vehicles—and other people on the road—safer. CR is calling on automakers to include BSW technology as a standard feature across all vehicle trim levels without additional cost to consumers.
Julia Friedberg, senior safety policy analyst for Consumer Reports and author of the report said: “Forcing consumers to pay extra for lifesaving features can be costly, both in terms of their money and their safety. This report quantifies the monetary cost to consumers of paying extra for blind spot warning. The safety cost—when people don’t get vital features because of the price—is less apparent, but it means lives lost, injuries suffered, and a myriad of expenses that consumers are forced to bear because of preventable crashes. Features like blind spot warning technology should be equipped in all new vehicles and all trim levels at no extra cost, just like seat belts and airbags come standard.”
Pickup trucks and large SUVs made up 7 of the top 10 models sold in the U.S. in 2022. Yet, CR has found that heavier vehicles tend to have a harder time avoiding crashes and perform worse on our emergency handling and braking tests compared to smaller vehicles. CR considers BSW a critical safety feature for all vehicles, especially for larger, heavier vehicles which can pose a greater risk to others on the road.
A 2020 CR member survey found that 56% of drivers who utilized BSW reported that it had helped prevent a crash, confirming the tangible safety benefits of this technology. CR recommends BSW as a safety feature, and our ratings reward vehicle models with a bonus point in CR’s Overall Score if all trim levels come standard with BSW, along with a related system, rear cross traffic warning. CR has a long history of advocating for automakers to include proven safety features as standard in all new vehicles, and CR’s latest findings on BSW reinforce that position.
Key Findings from the Report:
Availability of BSW
- CR examined 14 of the 2022 top-selling heavy passenger vehicle models in the U.S.—those that are 4,000 pounds or heavier—which included various pickup trucks and large SUVs. Of the models assessed, only three—approximately 21%—had BSW included as a standard feature on the lowest trim.
- None of the top five selling brands we looked at had BSW standard on all trims. These models accounted for over 2 million sales—or 15% of total new car sales—in 2022. On average, consumers who purchased these models would pay approximately $1,600 for BSW as an add-on feature on the lowest trim where it was available.
- None of the six pickup trucks included BSW as standard on the lowest trim.
- Because some consumers might “go up” a trim level to get a safety feature, CR looked at how many trim levels a consumer would need to go up to get BSW without an additional fee. Three of the five top-selling models CR analyzed would require an increase in price of over $20,000 to have BSW included as a standard feature.
- Of the eleven vehicles without BSW on the lowest trim level, BSW cannot be added to five, including certain Toyota, Jeep, and Ford models.
- Ford lists Co-Pilot 360 Technology as standard equipment on the base Bronco trim. However, Co-Pilot 360 Technology differs from Ford’s Co-Pilot 360—its suite of advanced safety and driver assistance systems. The standard Co-Pilot 360 Technology on the lowest trim of the Bronco does not have BSW. The optional Co-Pilot 360 feature on a higher trim does include BSW. This distinction is difficult for consumers to discern on the manufacturer’s website.
- BSW as CR defines it is not available in the Tesla Model Y or any other Tesla model.
Confusing Pricing Practices
- A trend among models offering BSW as an add-on to a package was to charge significantly higher prices at checkout, ranging from $650 to about $1,700 above the price listed during the shopping process.
- Of the top five selling models in CR’s analysis, only one—the Toyota Tacoma—had the same checkout and listed prices on the lowest trim level where it was available.
- The practice of “bundling” safety features with non-safety features, forcing consumers to pay for both, is still in place, particularly among top-selling models. Even the lowest-priced trims of the top four selling models require consumers to buy non-safety features to get BSW, raising the price by hundreds to thousands of dollars.
A 2022 nationally representative survey of 2,180 American drivers planning to buy or lease a vehicle in the next year conducted by CR revealed that 82% consider BSW at least somewhat important to have on their next vehicle. Over half of these prospective car buyers or lessees (53%) ranked it as extremely or very important to them that their next vehicle came with this feature.
CR emphasizes that safety should not be a luxury and that consumers want proven safety technologies like BSW in their vehicles. While some critics argue that making safety features come standard will raise prices, CR found that safety improvements did not lead to a statistically significant cost increase in vehicle prices when adjusting for inflation, based on data from model years 2003 to 2021.
CR calls on automakers to make BSW a standard feature across all trim levels. Doing so would eliminate the additional costs to consumers and ensure that this technology is available to help prevent fatalities and injuries and reduce the economic burdens associated with avoidable crashes.
Media Contact: Emily Akpan, firstname.lastname@example.org