Automakers are fighting tooth and nail to be leaders in in-vehicle entertainment, navigation, and communications technology, but new data from J.D. Power & Co. suggests the race may be, for some, at too brisk a pace.
The firm's latest Initial Quality Study, based on responses from more than 74,000 purchasers and lessees of new 2012 model-year vehicles after 90 days of ownership, finds that while the whole industry has improved considerably since 2009 in initial quality, the exception is telematics, with problems reported having increased by 8% from last year. The firm says problems in this category have increased by 45% since 2006 while other categories have improved by 24%, on average since then.
And for the first time in the 26-year history of the study, owners report more problems related to audio, entertainment, and navigation systems than in any other vehicle area. That shouldn't be too surprising, given the rush to lead the competition.
"Until recently, this type of sophisticated technology was found primarily on high-end models," said David Sargent, VP of global automotive at the firm, in a statement. "However, over the past few years it has rapidly found its way into the automotive mainstream." The firm says that in 2012, more than 80% of owners indicate that their new vehicle has some form of hands-free technology.
The number of owner-reported problems with factory-installed, hands-free communication devices has increased 137% during the past four years. And hands-free devices not recognizing commands has become the most-often-reported problem in the industry, per the firm.
Sargent says consumers are driving the quick pace of experimentation and potential failure as they now expect the same level of interface sophistication in cars that they get in their smartphones. "Automakers and suppliers are working hard to meet those expectations with systems intended to make the driving experience safer, more convenient and more entertaining. However, the most innovative technology in the world will quickly create dissatisfaction if owners can't get it to work."
Of the 34 brands ranked in the 2012 IQS, 26 have improved from 2011, five have declined, one scores the same as in 2011 and two were not included in the 2011 study.
The average quality of all-new or redesigned models improved 12% compared with 2011, with 11 all-new or redesigned models performing better than their segment average.
Lexus is the highest-ranked nameplate in the industry in the IQS study for a second consecutive year. Jaguar and Porsche follow Lexus in a tie to rank second. Jaguar posts the greatest improvement in the study, which moved it way up from the 20th rank position in 2011. Cadillac and Honda round out the top five rank positions.
Among the 21 model-level segment awards, Ford and Lexus receives three each. Ford earns awards for the Expedition, Mustang and Taurus, and Lexus garners awards for the ES 350, LS and RX.