Detroit Automakers Lag Behind in J.D. Power's Tech Experience Index Study

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【Summary】Automakers may be introducing new tech features every year, but some automakers are better than others at coming out with tech that’s easy to use.

Original Vineeth Joel Patel    Sep 29, 2020 7:30 AM PT
Detroit Automakers Lag Behind in J.D. Power's Tech Experience Index Study

It's no secret that modern cars are packed with technology. From safety features to high-tech infotainment systems, technology is found in everything from $20,000 subcompact cars to $100,000 full-size pickup trucks. The tricky thing about technology, is that every automaker does things a little differently. You might find the same technology in a Hyundai and a BMW, but they'll operate differently. The main question, then, is which automaker has the best technology?

Volvo Comes Out On Top

That's exactly what J.D. Power's Tech Experience Index looks to answer. The study, according to J.D. Power, "measures problems encountered and the user experience with advanced technology as they first enter the market, affording automakers time to address any problematic areas before the technologies enter the ‘mass availability' stage." Automakers receive a score based on how effectively they've integrated new technology into their vehicles and how quickly they introduce new tech. The highest score possible is 1,000 points.

Volvo came in first place in the study, scoring a total of 617 points across its entire lineup. BMW (583), Cadillac (577), Mercedes-Benz (567), and Genesis (559) rounded out the top five. It's interesting to see Volvo be the only automaker with a score in the 600s and outpace its German rivals. Seeing luxury brands dominate the top five isn't surprising, as consumers expect more technology in vehicles that cost more money and, knowing this, luxury brands probably spend more time perfecting their tech.

Out of non-luxury automakers, Hyundai ranked the highest with a score of 556. Subaru (541), Kia (538), Nissan (534), and Ram (520) placed in the top five for non-luxury brands. Hyundai and Kia are known for having some of the most intuitive infotainment systems on the market, so they're high scores aren't all that surprising. American brands, like Jeep (486), Chrysler (493), Dodge (499), Ford (509), Chevrolet (511) all lagged behind.

Where's Tesla Land?

Of course, you're probably wondering where Tesla landed in all of this. Well, the automaker receives an official score of 593. The electric automaker isn't officially ranked because it doesn't grant J.D. Power permission to survey owners in 15 states. So, while Tesla's score is good enough to put it in second place, it has a massive asterisk next to its name. 

The study analyzes 34 different types of technology, which are divided into four major categories: energy and sustainability; convenience; emerging automation; as well as infotainment and connectivity. The study is based on responses from 82,527 owners of new vehicles from the 2020 model year. Owners were surveyed after 90 days of ownership.

Out of all the tech J.D. Power's study analyzed, it found that owners found rearview camera mirrors and ground-view cameras to be the most helpful. On the other hand, gesture controls, which BMW is known for, were found to be the most troublesome. The tech had a high rate of trouble with 36 problems per 100 vehicles. Lastly, while semi-autonomous systems are starting to come out on modern cars, a lot of owners aren't that interested in the tech. A lot of owners found semi-autonomous systems to be distracting or annoying.

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