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Detroit carmakers come up short in JD Power U.S. tech rankings

Keith Laing
The Detroit News

Volvo leads all automakers in innovation rankings in J.D. Power's 2020 U.S. Tech Experience Index, while BMW ranked No. 2 and Cadillac was the only domestic brand in the top 10 at No. 3.

Mercedes-Benz and Genesis rounded out the top 5, and Lincoln was just outside the top 10 at No. 11. 

It was disappointing overall showing for Detroit's automakers, who only had two brands that performed better than the overall industry's average score, which is based on a calculation of how effectively each automaker brings new technologies to market, measured on a 1,000-point scale. The measurement takes into account both the level of adoption of new technologies for each brand and the excellence in execution.

Kristin Kolodge, executive director of driver interaction & human machine interface research at J.D. Power said in a statement "new technology continues to be a primary factor in the vehicle purchase decision.

“The race never ends to develop ‘must have’ vehicle technologies,”  Kolodge said.  “However, it’s critical for automakers to offer features that owners find intuitive and reliable. The user experience plays a major role in whether an owner will use the technology on a regular basis or abandon it and feel like they wasted their money.”

Among U.S. brands, RAM checked in at No. 14 and Chevrolet came in at No. 16. GMC clocked in at No. 17, while Ford ranked 18th. Buick ranked 20th and Dodge came in 22nd, while Chrysler placed 26th and Jeep placed 29th.

Tesla did not qualify because it did not meet the study criteria, but it would have ranked second overall. The Silicon Valley automaker's rankings were considered unofficial because it did not grant permission for J.D. Power to interview Tesla owners in 15 states where it would have been required. Based on interviews with new owners in 35 states, Tesla received a Innovation Index score of 593, second only to Volvo's 617. 

The annual study measures the experience with in-vehicle technologies during the first 90 days of ownership of 2020 vehicles. The higher the score, the better the performance in the eyes of new car owners. 

Technologies that provide an “extra set of eyes” to help them drive their vehicle scored well with new car owners, according to the study. Seventy-three percent of new car owners who have a rear-view mirror with a back-up camera said they will definitely want to have that in their next vehicle, while 62% said the same for ground view mirror and 53% for transparent trailer view. 

Interior gesture control technologies that allow drivers to control various features in the vehicle using hand gestures instead of touching anything scored lower among new car owners, according to J.D. Power. New car owners also expressed skepticism about active driving assistance features that are designed so that the vehicle is able to perform functions such as acceleration, braking and steering. Such features are seen as essential to the future development of self-driving cars. 

JD Power winners

Top Models per Tech Category

Convenience

Top Luxury Model

Cadillac CT5

Tech: Rear seat reminder

Top Mass Market Model

Subaru Ascent

Tech: Camera rear-view mirror

Emerging Automation

Top Luxury Model

Cadillac Escalade (Tie)

Genesis G70 (Tie)

Tech: Rear cross traffic warning

Top Mass Market Model

Chevrolet Camaro

Tech: Rear cross traffic warning

Infotainment & Connectivity

Top Luxury Model

Cadillac XT5

Tech: Navigation live traffic

Top Mass Market Model

Kia Sportage

Tech: Navigation live traffic

klaing@detroitnews.com