Despite its current, relatively limited, capabilities, Nissan has found Carwings invaluable nonetheless, Williams says, noting in a panel discussion here that it was intimidating for the automaker to launch a mass-production EV in late 2010. But being able to see how Leaf owners are using their cars via the app has allowed Nissan to “make improvements to quality and all aspects of ownership, not just while the customer is driving the vehicle,” she says.

As for other information that the automaker could collect on Leaf drivers or those behind the wheel of the brand’s other models, Williams says Nissan is not opposed to the burgeoning field of “insurance telematics,” that is collecting driver behavior data for the purposes of possibly lowering his or her insurance costs.

Nissan likes to seek out exciting innovations, but also is aware many of its owners are “pragmatic,” she tells panel attendees.

Citing data revealed at the conference here showing 61% of customers are very concerned about providing personal data in exchange for services, Williams says that indicates 39% of the population believe “there’s a huge opportunity to exchange their data in return for additional services, like insurance telematics.”

However, Nissan would want to make such a feature “not intrusive” and “completely optional.”

Others on the panel debate the future willingness of consumers to have their driving, or other behavior behind the wheel, tracked and disseminated.

Oracle’s Pradeep Suchdeo, a solutions specialist, says there must be a clear return for consumers.

“‘Is there something I’m getting in return for the information I’m providing?’” he asks. Suchdeo believes the younger generation, which already has “documented their life on Facebook,” may be more open to giving up information than older drivers.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com