New vehicle technology is not only increasingly complex, it’s also very much in demand among buyers. That is, certain types of in-vehicle technology. In its first-ever look at how satisfied consumers are with their in-car technologies, research firm J.D. Power found that safety technologies rank the highest in terms of overall usage and satisfaction.

The J.D. Power 2016 U.S. Tech Experience Index (TXI) Study℠ measured owner’s experiences with driver-centric technology at 90 days of vehicle ownership. Specifically, the study analyzed the categories of collision protection; comfort and convenience; entertainment and connectivity; navigation; driving assistance, and smartphone mirroring.

2016 Genesis - Safety

2016 Genesis – Safety

Technology that helps avoid a collision in the first place – such as blind-spot warning and detection, lane-keeping/centering and back-up camera warning systems – are part of the collision protection tech category. Tech that consumers had the most complaints/difficulty with are navigation systems.

“It’s not just how much technology you have in the vehicle, but how well it’s delivered,” said Kristin Kolodge, executive director of driver interaction and HMI research at J.D. Power.

Three-quarters of study respondents said they use back-up camera/warning and blind-spot warning and detection every time they drive. Furthermore, 96 percent of those who currently have these technologies in their vehicles said they’d want them in their next car as well.

Satisfaction with crash avoidance protection ranked highest in consumer satisfaction, scoring 754 on a 1,000-point scale.

Narrow Gap Between Premium and Non-Premium

As to specific categories of vehicles, while premium vehicle owner satisfaction is at 734, non-premium owner satisfaction is a close 730. Yet the Power study shows that overall satisfaction varies by vehicle segment.

In the large segment, the satisfaction is 755, followed by the small premium segment at 735, and then compact premium segment (732), midsize premium (731), compact (727), midsize (725), and small (707).

BMW 2-Series interior

BMW 2-Series interior

Specific Category Winners

BMW and Hyundai came out with top rankings in two segments each: BMW 2-Series in premium and 4-Series in compact premium, and Hyundai Genesis and Tucson in midsize premium and small segment, respectively.

The category winners were dominated by non-U.S. automakers, with only the Chevrolet Camaro scoring the number one spot in the midsize segment.

2017 Hyundai Tucson-safety

2017 Hyundai Tucson-safety

Here’s the complete list of winners in each segment:


Dealers Can Help Inform Consumers

An interesting highlight of the Power study is the opportunity dealers have to explain a vehicle’s technology to prospective owners and lessees. Just because an owner knows a vehicle has a certain technology doesn’t mean they’ll use it.

The study found that 39 percent of owners who say they never use a specific technology report they bring in another device to the vehicle to replace tech that’s already present. Navigation is the in-vehicle tech that’s most often replaced, generally by a smartphone. More than half of owners who bring in a different device said they never used the in-vehicle tech first.

Here’s where the dealer can play an important role in educating the consumer. Kolodge says the dealer’s role is critical in whether or not the in-vehicle technology is used. “When the dealer takes the time to explain the technology or provide a demonstration, it not only makes the owner aware they have the technology, but also helps them understand how to use it, which means they are more likely to use it, continue to use it and, because they see the value, want it in their next vehicle.”

Difficult-to-use technologies, according to the study, put a strain on owner satisfaction, with a 98 percent drop in satisfaction across all technologies when owners experience difficulty using them.

“The navigation system is just one area,” says Kolodge. “If the dealer explains all or many of the new technologies to the new owner, it can have a dramatic positive effect on the ownership experience.”

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2017 Cadillac CT6 Super Cruise driver-assist technology

2017 Cadillac CT6 Super Cruise driver-assist technology

On a personal note, this writer is a fan of many of the newest in-vehicle technologies. And I can attest to the value of a comprehensive walk-through and demonstration of the types of technology in my car upon purchase. The most beneficial to me was an in-depth demo of the navigation system, along with training in how to use OnStar services.

In fact, I’m sold on having certain crash avoidance technology on my next new vehicle purchase or lease. I know that my dealer will provide a complete demonstration of each safety feature and answer any questions I have before I drive off the lot.

Knowing that some insurance companies are beginning to offer discounts to owners who have certain safety features is an added bonus. But I’d opt for the safety tech regardless due to the increased peace of mind it provides during the driving experience.

What it all boils down to is a careful analysis of the costs vs. benefits of in-vehicle technology. As the tech moves into mainstream and is available in more vehicles regardless of trim, the price will come down. Once safety tech such as rearview cameras (mandated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to be in all new light vehicles by 2018) becomes standard, it’s a no-brainer.

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