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2013 Seat Quality and Satisfaction Study Results

2013 Seat Quality and Satisfaction Study Results

By Jeff Youngs, August 23, 2013
While seat suppliers and automakers try to save costs and reduce weight by having manually adjustable lumbar support in otherwise powered seats, owners of new vehicles equipped with those power/manual seats are not pleased, according to the recently published J.D. Power 2013 Seat Quality and Satisfaction Study.SM While the study shows that owners experience very few problems with vehicle seats that are entirely powered (including lumbar adjustments), the incidence of reported problems is almost five times as high for power seats with manually adjustable lumbar support.

According to the study, while fewer than 5% of new vehicles are equipped with power seats with manually adjustable lumbar support, owners of those vehicles report 1.9 problems per 100 vehicles (PP100) with the lumbar support adjustment. This compares with 0.4 PP100 reported by owners of vehicles equipped with power-controlled lumbar adjustments. Overall satisfaction among owners of vehicles equipped with power adjustable seats with manual lumbar adjustments averages 8.2 (on a 10-point scale), compared with 8.4 for owners of fully powered seats. Owners of seats with all manual controls report 1.1 PP100, but overall satisfaction is lowest among these owners, at 7.9.

"Including powered lumbar support controls adds costs to the seat and weight to the overall vehicle, which is why some automakers are opting for manually adjustable lumbar support," said Mike VanNieuwkuyk, executive director of global automotive at J.D. Power.

VanNieuwkuyk notes that while many drivers set their lumbar support to their desired adjustment and rarely touch it again, part of owners' dissatisfaction lies in the expectation that a powered seat--one that adjusts forward and backward, up and down, and reclines with the press of a button or lever--also has powered lumbar adjustment. Nearly half of all new vehicles are equipped with fully powered seats.

"Customer expectations, especially among premium vehicle owners, are that all adjustments on a 'power seat' will be powered, not manual," said VanNieuwkuyk. "Having manual lumbar controls when other seat controls are powered increases the likelihood that consumers will cite this as a problem and satisfaction decreases. It's also highly possible that many owners may not realize their power seat has manually adjustable lumbar support until after they purchase the vehicle, which only exacerbates their displeasure."

Seat height and headrest adjustments also affect customer satisfaction with their vehicles' seats. Seat height and headrest adjustments are important factors since they impact driver and passenger comfort, and constitute a potential safety issue. Owners who indicate problems with seat height or headrest adjustment tend also to be less satisfied with visibility, particularly out the rear of the vehicle.The study also finds that shorter owners (those under 5 ft. 5 in.) experience nearly twice as many problems with their seat height adjustment than their taller counterparts (1.2 PP100 vs. 0.7 PP100, respectively). Approximately one-third of these shorter owners indicate theirs seats don't adjust high enough. Shorter owners also experience more problems with headrest adjustments than do taller owners (1.6 PP100 vs. 1.0 PP100, respectively).

"It's a challenge for suppliers to make a seat that fits all owners," said VanNieuwkuyk. "Automakers will often integrate other movable features into their vehicles, such as adjustable pedals and tilt-and-telescoping steering column, to enable owners to adjust the seat to their comfort without compromising safety or visibility."

Seat Supplier Rankings
Among seat suppliers, Johnson Controls and Toyota Boshoku each garner two segment awards for seat quality. Johnson Controls ranks highest in the Mass Market Midsize/Large CUV segment (for its seats in the Toyota Venza) as well as in the Mass Market Truck/Van segment (Ford F-250 and F-350 Super Duty), while Toyota Boshoku ranks highest in seat quality in the Luxury Car segment (Lexus LS) and the Mass Market Midsize/Large Car segment (Toyota Camry assembled at the Lafayette B, Ind., plant).

Lear Corporation ranks highest in the Luxury CUV segment (Audi Allroad), Magna ranks highest in the Mass Market Compact CUV/MPV segment (Chevrolet Equinox), and Toyo Seat ranks highest in the Mass Market Compact Car segment (Mazda MX-5 Miata).

About the Study
The 2013 Seat Quality and Satisfaction Study provides automotive manufacturers and suppliers with quality and satisfaction information related to automotive seating systems. New-vehicle owners are asked to rate the quality of their vehicle seats and seat belts based on whether or not they experienced defects/malfunctions or design problems during the first 90 days of ownership. The study is based on responses from more than 83,400 owners of new 2013 model-year cars and light trucks. The study was fielded between February and May 2013.

Additional Research:

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