Despite a general awareness of the expectations and requirements of drivers and passengers, vehicle manufacturers and designers are overlooking their basic storage needs, particularly for small items, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2009 Vehicle Interior Needs Study.

“Manufacturers have done a fine job of creating adaptable, open cargo space for transporting large items by implementing flexible seating arrangements,” said Carolyn Etzel, director of product solutions at J.D. Power and Associates.

“However, drivers and passengers have a particular need for functional, dedicated, accessible space for storing small, everyday items such as mobile phones.”

The study finds that the first-row console bin/armrest is the most in-demand storage location in the vehicle — seven of the most common items that drivers and passengers bring to vehicles are primarily stored in this area. But most consumers are dissatisfied with the design and functionality of this storage area.

“The location of the first-row console bin makes it prime real estate for accessible storage, but because consumers use this space as a catchall for a myriad of items, the design and organization of the space is of primary importance,” said Etzel.

“Not only should the console provide ample storage space, but items placed within it should also remain easily accessible and not require users to fumble and dig to retrieve their belongings.”

The study also finds that, among 35 storage options examined, a dedicated holder for a mobile phone — the item that drivers and passengers most often bring into vehicles — is the most important unmet storage need for consumers. Currently, most consumers stow their mobile phone in the first-row console bin/armrest or the first-row cupholder.

And, for example, nearly 94 per cent of women say they bring a purse into their vehicle either every day or a few times a week, and 61 per cent of the time the purse is stored on the first-row passenger seat, which is not necessarily the most convenient location.

“Providing dedicated storage for purses would help to alleviate inconvenience for a very sizable and important group of vehicle owners,” said Etzel.

The 2009 Vehicle Interior Needs Study is based on responses from more than 6,000 consumers who purchased or leased a new vehicle between six and 24 months of ownership. The study was fielded in January and February 2009.

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