2014 Multimedia Quality and Satisfaction Study Results

Jeff Youngs | Aug 29, 2014

Consumers continue to demand increasing levels of technology in their new vehicles; however, audio, communication, entertainment and navigation (ACEN) systems remain problematic for new-vehicle buyers. The just-published J.D. Power 2014 Multimedia Quality and Satisfaction StudySM finds that new-vehicle buyers experience more problems per 100 vehicles (PP100) with their vehicles' ACEN systems in the first 90 days of ownership than with any other component category.

Problems with built-in voice recognition average 8.3 PP100 this year, up from 7.6 PP100 in 2013. The voice-recognition problems customers cite most often relate to three built-in hands-free communication issues: Doesn't recognize/misinterprets verbal commands (63%); Doesn't recognize/misinterprets names/words (44%); and Doesn't recognize/misinterprets numbers (31%).

Voice Recognition Surpasses Wind Noise as Most Frequently Cited Problem

According to J.D. Power research, voice recognition has surpassed wind noise as the area in which new-vehicle owners experience problems most frequently. Bluetooth connectivity is the second most frequently cited problem, followed by wind noise and navigation problems.

"Voice recognition and device connectivity are often inherent to the technology design and cannot be fixed at the dealership, creating a high level of angst among new-vehicle owners," said Mike VanNieuwkuyk, executive director of global automotive at J.D. Power. "Problems such as wind noise can sometimes be adjusted at the dealership. With voice recognition and connectivity problems, owners have had to learn to live with the shortcomings of this feature and instead rely on such work-around options as knobs and controls on the steering wheel and head unit to offset the core problem. Despite having alternative controls, this problem still negatively impacts owner satisfaction."

Automakers Still Battling Bluetooth Pairing and Connectivity Issues

The study shows that built-in Bluetooth--mobile phone/device frequent pairing/connectivity issues--is the second most frequently cited ACEN problem, at 5.7 PP100, down from 6.3 PP100 in 2013. Owners indicate that 97% of the devices with which they have pairing/connectivity issues are their phones. More than half (52%) of these owners indicate they use an iPhone OS, and 41% indicate they use an Android phone.

A majority (93%) of vehicle owners indicate that built-in Bluetooth connectivity is available to them, and 86% of owners say they have connected through their Bluetooth system. Among these owners, the most common pairing/connectivity issues are that the system won't find/recognize their mobile phone/device (40%), and the phone won't automatically connect when entering the vehicle (30%). Built-in Bluetooth mobile phone/audio connectivity and steering wheel controls have the largest impact on satisfaction, according to the study.

Consumer Expectations Not Being Met

VanNieuwkuyk observes that a disconnect remains between the performance of the built-in voice recognition and connectivity systems that auto manufacturers currently produce and consumer expectations. Although a majority of new-vehicle owners continue to express interest in built-in voice recognition and connectivity, these same owners indicate that their wireless phone is more robust than current built-in systems, and they tend to believe that these products don't justify their cost. More than two-thirds (70%) of new-vehicle owners indicate interest in built-in voice recognition, but that number drops to 44% when they're told the technology would cost $500.

"Automotive manufacturers really need to go back to the basics and design these systems so drivers can keep their hands on the wheel, their eyes on the road and their mind on the drive," said VanNieuwkuyk.

Consumer Tips

Based on the study, JDPA offers the following consumer tips:
  • Do your homework. Read up on the latest developments in ACEN and voice-recognition technology so that you'll know what to expect from the various products. Find out what problems other vehicle owners have reported.
  • Compare and contrast voice-recognition technologies, and find out whether the vehicle you're considering uses the best technology available.
  • Test voice-recognition devices thoroughly before committing to buying them--preferably during the test drive or vehicle walkaround.
  • If you're buying voice-recognition technology as a separate option, ask yourself how much of a difference it would make, in purely practical terms, and whether that difference would justify the cost.

About the Study

The 2014 Multimedia Quality and Satisfaction Study is based on responses from 86,118 new-vehicle owners surveyed between February 2014 and May 2014. The study allows for in-depth analyses of vehicle owners' experiences with the quality, design, and features of automotive multimedia systems including voice recognition, navigation, rear-seat entertainment, and speakers.

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