BMW, Hyundai top J.D. Power tech-experience study

Melissa Burden
The Detroit News

Two models from BMW and Hyundai each ranked highest in their segments in a new J.D. Power study that ranks cars, trucks and SUVs by customers’ overall experience with vehicle technology. Only one model from a U.S. automaker — the mid-size Chevrolet Camaro — was at the top of its class.

The BMW 4 series won the compact premium segment in J.D. Power's rankings of customers' overall experience using vehicle technology.

J.D. Power’s 2016 U.S. Tech Experience Index, released Monday, measures owners’ experience, use and interaction with vehicle technology after three months of owning a car. Awards were given to 2016 model-year vehicles that were new or redesigned within the past three years.

The study specifically reviewed collision protection; comfort and convenience; driving assistance; entertainment and connectivity; and navigation.

J.D. Power, which also conducts annual initial quality and Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) studies, said it chose to conduct this new survey because it found in those studies increasingly more problems in the areas of audio communication, entertainment and navigation — and less satisfaction with using those features.

“We think it’s going to be very useful for industry as we go forward,” said Kristin Kolodge, executive director of driver interaction and human machine interface research at J.D. Power.

For the tech-experience study, J.D. Power found that that crash-avoidance is the technology that customers use most. The research firm says blind-spot detection, lane-keeping assist and back-up camera and warning systems had the highest consumer satisfaction, scoring 754 on a 1,000-point scale.

“We see those types of technologies being very important because they’re what we would consider the foundational building blocks toward automated driving,” Kolodge said. “So having that positive experience with these lower levels of automation, or some of these warning based systems before they might start automatically braking or steering for you, is a really important first step before getting to that higher level of automation.”

Ratings for other systems were:

■Comfort/convenience: 732

■Driving assistance: 726

■Entertainment and connectivity: 739

■Navigation: 687

The BMW 2 Series led the small premium segment and the 4 Series won the compact premium segment. The Hyundai Genesis won for midsize premium segment and the Tucson topped the small segment. Other top models include the Chevrolet Camaro in the midsize segment, Kia Forte in the compact segment and Nissan Maxima in the large segment.

J.D. Power found that back-up cameras and blind-spot warning/detection are used the most, with at least 75 percent saying they use it every time behind the wheel. Ninety-six percent of owners said they want that capability in their next car.

The firm found some owners never use some of a vehicle’s technology offerings. Of that group, 39 percent say they bring in another device to replace technology in the vehicle, led by navigation. More than half who bring in another device say they have never used the in-car equipment.

Kolodge said in many cases, respondents said they found factory navigation too cumbersome to use when entering an address, for example, or that trying to use navigation through voice recognition was a struggle.

“That person has paid for in that case a very expensive technology, navigation’s very pricey, and yet they’re choosing not to use it,” Kolodge said. “That’s a real significant lost value there.”

When customers reported difficult-to-use technologies, J.D. Power said there was an average 98 point drop in satisfaction. And owners who learned how to use their navigation system from a dealer reported 2 problems per 100 vehicles fewer than those who did not receive dealer help.

“What we’re seeing for those dealers that take the time to demonstrate the technology, we’re seeing upwards of 54 points increase in (overall) satisfaction,” Kolodge said.

Kolodge said several questions also were asked about pairing smartphones to an infotainment system, but that was not its own category this year. She expects that will be an area of concentration next year. “There’s a large population of consumers that just don’t know if they have it on their vehicle or not,” she said. “There’s just an overall misunderstanding of what that technology is and how to find it on their vehicle.”

J.D. Power found consumers overall ranked vehicle technology satisfaction at 730 on a 1,000-point scale, with owners of premium vehicles slightly more satisfied (734 points) than owners of non-premium owners (730 points). Satisfaction also varied by segment, with owners most satisfied with large vehicles at 755 points and least in the small segment at 706.

The study was based on surveys from 17,864 vehicle owners and lessees and was conducted from February through August. J.D. Power did not have a high enough sample size to award a large premium car segment winner.

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J.D. Power 2016 U.S. Tech Experience Index

(Highest-ranked vehicle in bold, followed by other winners)

Compact: Kia Forte, Scion iM, Mitsubishi Outlander

Compact premium: BMW 4 Series, Lexus IS, Lincoln MKC

Small: Hyundai Tucson, Scion iA, Fiat 500X

Small Premium: BMW 2 Series, Audi A3, BMW X1

Midsize: Chevrolet Camaro, Kia Sorento and Nissan Murano (tie)

Midsize Premium: Hyundai Genesis, Cadillac CTS, Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class

Large: Nissan Maxima, Chevrolet Silverado, GMC Sierra