JD Power study explains the technology conundrum faced by automakers

Large variation in the number of problems

In some instances, the study showed a wide variation in the number of problems for a particular technology.

JD Power found a feature that reminds drivers that a person, pet or package is still in the rear of a car when they exit ranged from 1.9 problems per 100 vehicles to 26.2 depending on the manufacturer.

The disparity demonstrates that the technology works and will generate only a small number of complaints when executed correctly, JD Power said.

Since features such as rear-seat reminders have widely varying scores, Rizk said automakers need to benchmark new tech offerings better.

“This could allow them to identify and integrate best practices,” she said.

While automakers routinely benchmark technologies from competitors, Rizk said they typically use an engineering perspective, not a consumer standpoint.

“We often see technologies that are designed to specification but do not meet the expectations of a customer,” she said.

Emerging tech feature with highest score

A phone-based digital key was an example of an emerging technology that received high execution scores.

“The strong preference for having it on their next vehicle is driven by the positive user experience they had with the technology in their current vehicle,” Rizk said.

On the other hand, the study found fingerprint-reader features were the lowest-performing technologies. They logged more than 54 problems per 100 vehicles.

Yet automakers are introducing more biometric features such as fingerprint, facial, and voice recognition to personalize and unlock vehicles, start the engine and authorize payments.

“The early iteration of this technology that fingerprint readers may not be the strongest approach from a user perspective,” Rizk said.

Dealer education elevates ownership experience

The study demonstrates how dealers can improve the ownership experience by spending more time educating customers, JD Power said. The study found that owners gave higher scores for new tech features when they received training from dealers rather than outside sources or the owner’s manual.

However, Rizk said it’s difficult for dealers to go over every feature because new cars now come with too much technology.

“Therefore, it’s critical for automakers to work with dealers to help prioritize which technologies should be covered during the delivery process,” she said.