While new-vehicle technology is a leading reason why buyers choose one vehicle over another, many new vehicles are equipped with some features that they want no part of, according to the J.D. Power 2021 U.S. Tech Experience Index (TXI) Study,SM. This ends up being costly to automakers and buyers alike.
“New-vehicle prices are at an all-time high, partly as a result of an increased level of content,” said Kristin Kolodge, executive director of human machine interface at J.D. Power. “This is fine if owners are getting value for their money, but some features seem like a waste to many owners.”
The study finds that, for more than one in three advanced technologies, fewer than half of owners have used the technology in the first 90 days of ownership. Non-users most often say they don’t need these technologies. For example, 61% of owners say they have never used the in-vehicle digital market technology, and 51% of those saying they have no need for it. Owners feel similarly about the driver/passenger communication technology, with 52% saying they have never used the technology, and 40% of those saying they have no need for it.
When technology is effectively executed in a vehicle, it positively influences an owner’s decision to purchase another vehicle equipped with that technology. The highest execution scores in the study are for camera rear-view mirror and ground view camera, both of which are ranked among the top three by owners wanting them on their next vehicle.
“Transactional data showing that automakers suffer a hit to profits and sales velocity if they build the wrong mix of features on their vehicles,” Kolodge said. “The TXI research quantifies the benefits when there is alignment between what owners truly want and what the automakers produce.”
Following are key findings of the 2021 study:
- Dealers can influence how owners feel about value of technology: Dealer demonstrations at delivery are instrumental in keeping owners engaged with emerging technologies. For example, for safe exit assist technology, owners can get a very strong understanding of the system when they learn it from a dealer. Without dealer education, however, owners often do not fully understand the technology and its value, presenting a challenge for its overall acceptance. Similarly, when a dealer demonstrates trailer assistance technology, satisfaction improves to 8.69 (on a 10-point scale) compared with 7.83 for learning from an outside source. However, owners are more than twice as likely to learn about this technology from an outside source (71%) than from a dealer (30%).
- Some technologies make driving experience better, while others do not: Many owners indicate poor performance withinterior gesture controls technology, which responds to hand motions instead of touch. Owners of this feature indicate an extremely high 41 problems per 100 vehicles (PP100). This technology also has the lowest overall satisfaction score in the study for a second consecutive year. In contrast, one-pedal driving technology offered in some electric vehicles receives very high satisfaction levels and owners cite relatively few problems (8 PP100).
- Tech desires not always transferable across global markets: J.D. Power TXI studies for the United States and China include 21 of the same advanced and emerging technologies, but scores for owner satisfaction vary by country. While camera rear-view mirror technology receives high scores in the United States, owners in China have the most problems (18 PP100) with this technology. For ground view camera technology, 62% of U.S. owners say they “definitely will” want the technology again, while only 24% of owners in China say the same.
- Tesla’s unofficial score is highest in study: Tesla receives an Innovation Index score of 668 (on a 1,000-point scale). The automaker is not officially ranked among other brands in the study as it doesn’t meet ranking criteria. Unlike other manufacturers, Tesla doesn’t grant J.D. Power permission to survey its owners in 15 states where it sells vehicles. Based on that limitation, Tesla’s score is calculated based on a sample of surveys from owners in the other 35 states.
Genesis ranks highest overall and in the premium segment with an Innovation Index score of 634, offering a high level of advanced technologies across its product lineup. In the premium segment, Cadillac (551) ranks second, followed by Volvo (550), BMW (545) and Mercedes-Benz (523).
Hyundai ranks highest in the mass market segment with a score of 519. Kia (510) ranks second, followed by Nissan (502), Subaru (499) and GMC (498).
Advanced Technology Award Recipients
The TXI Study analyzes 36 technologies, which are divided into four categories: convenience; emerging automation; energy and sustainability; and infotainment and connectivity. Only technologies classified as advanced are award eligible.
- Cadillac Escalade is the premium model receiving the convenience award, for camera rear-view mirror technology. Ram 1500 is the mass market model receiving the convenience award, also for camera rear-view mirror technology.
- Lexus IS receives the premium model emerging automation award, for reverse automatic emergency braking technology. Hyundai Elantra is the mass market model receiving the emerging automation award, for front cross traffic warning technology.
- Lexus IS receives the award for infotainment and connectivity in the premium segment, for virtual assistant connectivity to vehicle technology. Kia K5 receives the infotainment and connectivity award in the mass market segment, also for virtual assistant connectivity to vehicle technology.
The 2021 U.S. Tech Experience Index (TXI) Study is based on responses from 110,827 owners of new 2021 model-year vehicles who were surveyed after 90 days of ownership. The study was fielded from February through July 2021.