NEW YORK — More than 80 percent of consumers say they would think twice about making a purchase from an automaker whose vehicles had been hacked, according to the 2016 KPMG Consumer Loss Barometer study.
The survey, which asked 449 vehicle owners how their decision to make a purchase from a particular manufacturer would be affected if one of that brand's cars had been hacked, found that 82 percent would either "be wary" or flat-out never buy from that automaker.
The KPMG study revealed that hacking of vehicle electronic systems continues to be an issue for large numbers of consumers, with 70 percent of respondents expressing concern about the possibility that their car could be hacked within the next five years.
Not surprisingly, 79 percent of those surveyed said that if their own vehicle was hacked it would have a negative impact on their perception of that brand. And that view was shared across generational lines, although the extent of the impact differed a bit, with 83 percent of Baby Boomers and 74 percent of Millennials saying a hack would damage their opinion of the automaker.
"Cars and trucks have evolved into highly complex computers on wheels, with increased connectivity that presents some real and important cyber security risks, the most significant of which is safety," said Gary Silberg, KPMG's Automotive Sector leader, in a statement. "Unlike most consumer products, a vehicle breach can be life-threatening, especially if the vehicle is driving at highway speeds and a hacker gains control of the car. That is a very scary, but possible scenario, and it's easy to see why consumers are so sensitive about cyber security as it relates to their cars."
Those concerns were borne out by the survey, in which 41 percent of consumers said their number-one fear would be someone else taking control of their car, followed by 25 percent who were most worried about their financial information being stolen.
As previously reported by Edmunds, a number of highly publicized vehicle hacks, or hacking attempts, in the past year have prompted automakers to issue recalls or software updates to address the issues.
These include a Fiat-Chrysler recall of 1.4 million vehicles in July of 2015 to upgrade infotainment software in response to a test in which researchers were able to take control of a 2014 Cherokee and disable its engine functions, as well as control the air-conditioning, locks and radio.
In another case last July, General Motors had to devise a repair to its OnStar RemoteLink system after a so-called "white-hat" hacker said he was able to remotely tamper with vehicles, unlocking doors and starting engines.
And, as Edmunds reported last August, Tesla issued a software update to owners of 2015 Tesla Model S sedans after hackers said they were able to take control of one of the vehicles, shutting it down at low speed.
According to KPMG, 85 percent of automakers admit their organizations have been breached in the past 24 months, yet more than two-thirds say they haven't invested in information security in the past year.
"Automakers are playing catchup when it comes to cyber security," said KPMG's Silberg. "But the threat is real, and the implications of a vehicle breach could be catastrophic for consumers and the automakers alike. Car companies need to take action now and make cyber security a strategic imperative to ensure they are doing everything possible to protect the drivers of their vehicles."
Edmunds says: Consumers can find more information about vehicle hacking at the Edmunds.com Car Technology page.