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Survey highlights tech frustration

JD Power reports tech push back from new car owners

27 Jul 2023

A RECENT JD Power new car owner’s survey reports people are becoming increasingly disgruntled with the amount of “useless” technology in their car.


According to US website theverge.com, it is the first time in 28 years of the consumer research company’s “car owner survey” that there has been a consecutive year-on-year decline in satisfaction, mostly related to in-car tech, and specifically infotainment systems.


The result could easily be extrapolated here, as many new car buyers in Australia struggle to come to terms with the complexities of screen-based car controls and the multiple menus they contain.


Drivers frustrated with tech’ in their car is commonplace Down Under (no doubt worldwide) and is usually accompanied by a spray of expletives with a car stopped in “no-man’s land” while the driver grapples with multiple control options… Or worse, swerving while trying to access controls on the move.


A rising trend with many manufacturers to do away with hard switches, toggles and buttons simply to cut costs and centralise as many car functions as possible onto one or two touchscreens could exacerbate owners’ frustrations.


The JD Power report says drivers are fed up with “fumbling with their car’s air-conditioning because it is buried under several menus” or  within a “dang (frustrating) touchscreen”.

It says car companies are “racing to outdo each other by slathering more and more tech onto their products and people are getting increasingly fed up with their car infotainment systems”.


The sobering survey data is contained in JD Power’s Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study, measuring overall satisfaction among car owners at 845 points (based on a 1000-point scale) which represents a drop of two points from 2022 and a three point drop from 2021.


It means the survey result reflects the first consecutive year on year decline in owner satisfaction in the 28-year history of the study.


According to theverge.com it is partly attributable to most people preferring to use smartphone-mirroring systems like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The systems have proven to be highly popular since they were introduced.


The website says other surveys suggest people prefer interacting with the apps on their phone rather than whatever “cockamamie bullshit” was cooked up by the company that made their car.


The JD Power survey highlights a preference for “native” operating systems developed by Google and not the automaker.  It found that models fitted with Android Automotive using Google Automotive’s operating system, AAOS, “score higher in the infotainment category than those with no AAOS whatsoever”.


Balanced against that is data showing AAOS without Google Automotive Services (GAS) receives the lowest scores for infotainment of the three categories (GAS refers to all the apps and services that come with the car when Google is built into it).


Several manufacturers including Ford, GM and Volvo have identified the problem and responded by saying they will use GAS for current and future vehicles. On the other side of the coin, theverge.com says some Stellantis vehicles use Android Automotive but partner with other tech companies for their app services.


Google seems to be a front runner in OEM’s adoption of native infotainment systems especially now that GM has recently, controversially blocked access to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto in its future EV line up in favour of Google’s system.


Taking that thought bubble to the next step and it becomes obvious that GM sales could benefit from the move to the increasingly popular built-in Google system.


What is even more interesting is survey data showing that respondents are choosing not to use their car’s native infotainment controls with only 56 per cent of owners preferring to use their vehicle’s built-in system to play audio, down from 70 per cent in 2020.


The data showed less than 50 per cent of owners said they prefer using their car’s native controls for navigation, voice recognition, or to make phone calls.


The extensive JD Power survey also found exterior styling was also becoming a major concern for owners who said they were “over” weird and bad looking cars.


The JD Power 2023 US APEAL Study taps responses from 84,555 owners of new 2023 model-year vehicles who were surveyed after 90 days of ownership.

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