Individuals are finding less to complain about in their new cars when it comes to quality, a new study found, with one glaring exception: entertainment, audio and navigation systems.
According to J.D. Power and Associates’ 2012 Usa Initial Quality Study, cars have never had higher quality. But as the overall quality of 2012 models is up 5 percent when compared with last year, the number of complaints about cars’ multimedia systems is up 45 percent since 2006, the business said.
It’s not surprising, as manufacturers introduce increasingly sophisticated multimedia systems such as voice recognition, even on mainstream models. “Until recently, this type of sophisticated technology was found primarily on high-end models,” said David Sargent, vice president of global automotive at J.D. Power, who released the research at a meeting of the Automotive Press Association. “However, during the last few years they have rapidly found its way into the automotive mainstream. For example, in 2012, more than 80 % of owners indicate that their new vehicle has some kind of hands-free technology.”
Specifically, the number of owner-reported problems with factory-installed hands-free communication devices has grown 137 percent during the past 4 years. The most common complaint: hands-free devices not recognizing commands.
Edmunds.com Senior Analyst Jessica Caldwell said new car buyers are actually being open to in-cabin technology that’s much more advanced compared to what they found in their previous vehicles, noting that age of vehicle trade-ins is older than ever before. “So, there’s an all-natural learning curve for these drivers to get adjusted to these new features as they quickly emerge as standard technology in the marketplace,” she said.
You might think those who are most dissatisfied with their car’s technology are definitely the older drivers, who are less comfortable with technology in general. But complaints are in fact higher among younger drivers, partly as their expectations are higher, explained Sargent.
Consumers have come should be expected the technology in their smartphones and other personal devices to circulate seamlessly inside their vehicles. “Automakers and suppliers are working challenging to meet those expectations with systems designed to make the driving experience safer, more convenient and much more entertaining,” Sargent said. “However, probably the most innovative technology in the world will quickly create dissatisfaction if owners can’t get it to be effective.”
Ford Motor knows this first-hand. Partly because of consumer complaints featuring its MyFord Touch entertainment system, the carmaker had a poor showing in last year’s study. Not over time for results to be reflected in this year’s study, despite the fact that ford mailed a software upgrade to consumers in March. Ford quality fell slightly in 2012, to 118 problems per 100 vehicles, below the industry average of 102. In the pre-emptive strike Tuesday, Ford explained that internal research shows consumer satisfaction has improved since Ford owners installed the software upgrade.
Sargent said Ford is not really alone. “Every manufacturer is wrestling with this. In a sense, Ford took one for the team. They went big. They went early. They were brave. And everyone learned a lot from their experience.”
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Lexus will be the highest-ranked nameplate in the industry to get a second consecutive year, accompanied by Jaguar and Porsche, tied for second. Jaguar showed the largest improvement, jumping through the 20th rank position this year. Honda and Cadillac were also in the top 5.
In the past, some brands (usually Japanese) tended to collect the lion’s share of awards in each segment. Nevertheless in the 2012 study, 14 different brands received segment awards in 2012. “This is a positive indication of how widespread high quality is among automakers, with most brands producing a number of models with exceptional quality levels,” Sargent said.