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New-Vehicle Owners Fail to Use Many New Technology Features

New-Vehicle Owners Fail to Use Many New Technology Features

By Philly Murtha, August 25, 2015

The amount of technology that automakers have integrated into their new cars, trucks, and SUVs in recent years is impressive, but a new J.D. Power report suggests that many new-vehicle owners are not taking full advantage of these gadgets.

The recently released J.D. Power 2015 Driver Interactive Vehicle Experience (DrIVE) Report,SM which is based on responses from 4,200 buyers and lessees of both premium and non-premium vehicles after 90 days of ownership, finds that 20% of new-vehicle owners have never used16 of 33 of the technology features measured in the report.

Some of the neglected technologies measured in the report may not have been turned on when new vehicles were delivered at the dealership. Also, the report finds that some new-vehicle owners said they didn’t know if they had the features in their vehicles, while others didn’t have technology features explained to them when they took delivery.

“The DrIVE Report looks at the experience that consumers have with technology in order to understand if it is intuitive, provides value and works, regardless of the model purchased,” said Renee Stephens, vice president of U.S. Auto Quality at J.D. Power. “By better understanding what consumers are looking for, what their expectations are, and what their ideal experience is, automakers can best decide how to meet those needs in the most efficient and cost effective manner.”

In the report, major technology features that are never used by larger percentages of new-vehicle owners are: in-vehicle concierge (43%); mobile routers for wireless Internet connectivity (38%); automatic parking systems (35%); head-up display (33%); and built-in apps (32%).

Safety and Driver-Assistance Features are Most-Wanted Technologies
In contrast, technologies that owners most often want include features that enhance safety and the driving experience vs. technologies that can be accessed through an external device. The in-vehicle technologies owners most want include vehicle health diagnostics, blind-spot warning and detection, and adaptive cruise control.

It’s noteworthy that at least 20% of new-vehicle owners indicate they don’t want 14 of 33 technology features in their next vehicle. Features that are “not wanted” include: Apple CarPlay and Google Android Auto, in-vehicle concierge services, and in-vehicle voice texting. The report also finds that among Gen Y1 buyers and lessees, the number of unwanted features increases to 23—specifically technologies related to entertainment and connectivity systems. Among all new-vehicle owners the most frequently cited reason for not wanting a specific technology feature is because they “did not find it useful” in their current vehicle and the technology “came as part of a package on my current vehicle and I did not want it,” according to the report’s findings.

Kristin Kolodge, executive director of driver interaction & HMI (Human Machine Interface) research at J.D. Power, said, “In many cases, owners simply prefer to use their smartphone or tablet, because they are familiar with the device, know how to use it, and it meets their needs for accuracy.”

Dealer Explanation is Key to Use of In-Vehicle Feature Technology
According to the report, when dealership staff members do not explain and demonstrate features during the delivery process, there is less likelihood that the feature or technology will ever be used. In addition, if features are not turned on when the vehicle is delivered, the buyer may not even know that the vehicle is equipped with a particular technology, and is thus less likely to use it.

“While automakers are spending a lot of money on in-vehicle technology, consumers also are paying for the feature. If new-vehicle owners are not using the technology in their current vehicle, most say they don’t want it in their future vehicles,” Kolodge said.

“Automakers need to get it right the first time, or owners will simply use their mobile device—smartphone or tablet—in their vehicle,” Kolodge cautions, noting that the first few weeks of ownership are critical and the dealership plays the most
important role in helping owners get off to a good start with the technology.

Kolodge points out that a sales person must thoroughly explain the technology during the delivery process. “For instance, a salesperson should help the owner link their mobile device to the vehicle via Bluetooth for hands-free communication and spend time with the owner while he or she tests the technology. It shouldn’t be left to the owner to figure it out.”

J.D. Power’s Stephens agrees that, “Consumers should take advantage of the training offered by the dealers. Having the dealer walk them through at least how to pair their phone and add a phone is a primary area for consumers to understand. Setting up the personalization areas can also help consumers get a good start as well as running through any collision-avoidance or other safety systems.”

Stephens also urges consumers to return to the dealer for a follow-up session to go through the navigation system, audio settings, voice-command capability and other areas with high interaction to demonstrate the value to new-vehicle owners. “For dealers, having a tech expert available to consumers in their own time frame, at their own pace, goes a long way to engaging them with the technology,” Stephens added.

While dealers certainly can have a significant impact on owners’ understanding of the technology in their vehicles, J.D. Power’s Kolodge points out, “While dealers are expected to play a key role in explaining the technology to consumers, the onus should be on automakers to design the technology to be intuitive for consumers. Automakers also need to explain the technology to dealership staff and train them on how to demonstrate it to owners.”

Providing technology operation instruction to new-vehicle owners also helps ensure that there aren’t problems later on with driving safety. For instance, J.D. Power research finds that auto insurance providers are concerned that if the technology is difficult to use or not explained clearly, it can cause driver distraction that can lead to accidents. In addition, there are safety issues if drivers choose to use their smartphones instead of hands-free in-vehicle technology. At least 14 states have laws requiring hands-free cell phone use and 38 states ban all cell phone use by novice drivers.2

Safety Technology Features Can Impact Accident Claims Costs
Also, in-vehicle technology can increase claims costs for vehicles damaged in an accident. A slight bumper scrape that normally would cost a few hundred dollars to repair can escalate a claim into the thousands of dollars if a rearview camera and other sensors are damaged, points out Chip Lackey, senior director of the insurance practice at J.D. Power.

1J.D. Power defines generational groups as Pre-Boomers (born before 1946); Boomers (1946 to 1964); Gen X (1965-1976); Gen Y (1977 to 1994); and Gen Z (1995 and forward).

2Source: Governors Highway Safety Association:

Additional Research:

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