JD Power, a global marketing information services firm, has published its 2013 Initial Quality Study, an examination, in great detail, of what consumers can expect in new and also used vehicle quality. The emphasis in this 27th year of analysis has been on the problems experienced related to new technologies and features now being offered to new-vehicle owners. The overall conclusion is that nearly two-thirds of the problems owners experience in the first 90 days of driving a new car are interior design-related features, few of which can be fixed because they are inherent in the car’s design.
More than 83,000 owners responded to the JD Power survey, representing 34 car brands and 209 models. More than 64% of complaints were those related to technology enhancements where the components didn’t actually fail, but were poorly designed. For example, responses indicated that the devices were difficult to operate, they were poorly located within the vehicle, or the customer had a hard time understanding its function and operation. Since consumers are demanding all the latest buzzes and whistles within their vehicles, especially the high-end models that professional limousine drivers normally operate, the manufacturers are happy to oblige. However, those customers are becoming frustrated and confused by some of the often complicated technology and are reported back to the dealers that there is a problem with the vehicle.
The study concluded that consumers view design difficulties as just as important as defects and malfunctions if not more so. When asked to evaluate the severity of the problems they are reporting to the study, most drivers gave design problems a higher severity rating than defects and malfunctions. This further frustrates the consumers since these design problems cannot be “fixed” by returning to the dealer.
The manufacturers are also frustrated by the results of the study. They are investing billions of dollars into designing and building their vehicles. Yet they seem to be struggling with satisfying the consumer for the latest gadgets, and can’t seem to provide them in such a way that they are easy for all groups of drivers to operate. Features that are difficult for drivers to use or hard to understand will likely remain a problem for drivers and for the life of the vehicle. The vehicles themselves get high ratings for safety, comfort and design, but the issue of easy to use technology is still a few years into the future.