Problems with audio, communication, entertainment, and navigation (ACEN) systems now account for 20% of all customer-reported problems at vehicle dealerships, according to the latest J.D. Power Vehicle Dependability Study.
The study, based on responses from 33,560 original owners of 2013 model-year vehicles after three years of ownership, suggests ACEN issues are the cause of a 3% year-over-year decline in vehicle dependability.
“The increase in technology-related problems has two sources,” Renee Stephens, vice president of U.S. automotive at J.D. Power, noted. “Usability problems that customers reported during their first 90 days of ownership are still bothering them three years later in ever-higher numbers. At the same time, the penetration of these features has increased year over year.”
The problems most often reported by owners are Bluetooth pairing/connectivity and built-in voice recognition systems misinterpreting commands. Navigation system difficult to use and navigation system inaccurate are also among the 10 most frequently reported problems.
Stephens said more than 50% of owners cite expected reliability as one of the most influential reasons for choosing a specific make and model. At the same time, concerns about reliability have risen this year as a reason to avoid particular models.
“The decline in reliability coupled with a record number of vehicle recalls and safety-related complaints affect consumer confidence,” said Stephens. “Dependability has a direct impact on purchase decisions and brand loyalty.”
Among owners who experienced no problems with their vehicle, 55% purchased the same brand again. In contrast, only 41% of owners who experienced three or more problems with their vehicle stayed with the same brand for their next purchase. Additionally, only a third of owners who had to replace a component outside of normal wear items said they would definitely repurchase or lease the same brand again.
Highest-Ranked Nameplates and Models
Lexus ranks highest in vehicle dependability among all nameplates for a fifth consecutive year, with a score of 95 problems per 100 vehicles.
Porsche (with a score of 97) follows Lexus in the rankings, moving up from fifth in 2015.
Following Porsche in the rankings are Buick (106), Toyota (113), and GMC (120).
GM models receiving an award include the Buick Encore; Buick LaCrosse; Buick Verano; Chevrolet Camaro; Chevrolet Equinox; Chevrolet Malibu; Chevrolet Silverado HD; and GMC Yukon.
Toyota awardees include the Lexus ES; Lexus GS; Lexus GX; Toyota Prius v; Toyota Sienna; and Toyota Tundra.
Others models to receive segment awards are the Fiat 500; Honda Fit; Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class; MINI Cooper; MINI Coupe/Roadster; and Nissan Murano.
Key Study Findings
The overall industry average is 152 problems per 100 vehicles this year, compared with 147 last year.
Among owners who experienced a Bluetooth pairing/connectivity problem, 53% said the vehicle didn’t find/recognize their mobile phone/device.
Among owners who indicate having experienced a voice recognition problem, 67% say the problem was related to the system not recognizing/misinterpreting verbal commands.
The number of engine/transmission problems decreases to 24 problems per 100 vehicles in 2016 from 26 in 2015.
Seven of the top 10 problems are design-related. Design-related problems account for 39% of problems reported in the study (60), a 2-percentage-point increase from 2015.
The 2016 U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study is based on responses from 33,560 original owners of 2013 model-year vehicles after three years of ownership. The study was fielded from October through December 2015.