The consultancy’s annual study of 800 executives from car manufacturers, suppliers, dealers and IT companies breaking into the sector, ranked connectivity above traditional automotive sector subjects, with it jumping up from 10th place last year.
Selling more vehicles in emerging nations, the biggest concern for the past three years, dropped to fourth position.
Dieter Becker, KPMG’s global head of automotive, said: “Connectivity is rising at an unimaginably fast pace and fundamentally changes the way we live our lives – nothing will be the same as it was before.”
He said the new priority was no surprise, with people so used to being online they expect the same while on the move that the industry had to adapt, and warned is likely to create “unthinkable disruption” for car manufacturers.
Google and Apple developing their own vehicles is adding to pressure on traditional automotive companies, with the connected part of cars being more important to drivers than the actual propulsion system, as modern cars’ reliability means traditional worries such as breaking down have faded from consumers’ minds.
The prospect of so-called “autonomous” cars which can drive themselves without a human at the wheel, ranked as the ninth biggest issue facing the industry. However, – which will rely on connected technology also means that cars being able to go online has risen to the top.
Self-driving capabilities will also drive car purchases in the future, according to KPMG’s research. It found that by 2030 almost one in five people will base decisions on whether or not to buy a car on whether it can drive autonomously, and three in five industry executives expect this to be part of a buyer’s checklist.
John Leech, KPMG’s UK head of automotive, said self-driving vehicles present an opportunity for the UK economically, with the governments encouraging stance on encouraging testing autonomous cars giving the country a valuable headstart.