Lincoln MKS, Ford Flex Are Tops In Nav-System Satisfaction

December 1, 2009
2010 Ford Flex

2010 Ford Flex

Happy with your nav system? So are a lot of Lincoln MKS and Ford Flex owners. The Clarion-supplied navigation systems in those vehicles have the most satisfied customers. Also ranking high are the systems in the Acura TL (Pioneer), Ford F-150 (Clarion), and Porsche 911 (Harman/Becker).

Toyota's Denso-supplied nav system placed low on the list—verified across many models—as did the Denso system in the Jaguar XF. The Subaru Forester (Kenwood) and Toyota Prius (Aisin AW) ranked very low, while the Toyota Avalon (Denso) ranked at the bottom. We should note that the 2010 Toyota Prius has been completely redesigned, with a different nav interface than the 2009 model that's referred to in the study.

We've driven a lot of vehicles with navigation systems, and from this we can say that there's a dramatic difference in ease of use. Features like live traffic updates and dynamic rerouting can help reduce driving stress and overall safety and convenience.

“Among the 10 navigation systems with the highest levels of customer satisfaction, all of them have real-time traffic capabilities, and a majority are equipped with voice recognition—underlining the positive effect these advanced features have on overall navigation system satisfaction,” said Mike Marshall, director of automotive emerging technologies at J.D. Power and Associates, in a release from the company.

The interface is a big part of it, too, no doubt. Some systems rely on clunky interfaces for entering addresses, while others require you to negotiate through submenus that are less than intuitive. Voice commands are offered on a wide range of systems but we’ve only been happy with a few of them.

BMW adds real time traffic information to its 2007 navigation systems

BMW adds real time traffic information to its 2007 navigation systems

In just a few years, navigation systems surged in popularity, mainly thanks to those live-traffic features and integrated hands-free and audio connectivity. In fact, they’ve become a must-have for many new-car shoppers. In the study, 39 percent said that they would have looked elsewhere if a nav system hadn't been available. "Integrating and delivering advanced user-facing technology in vehicles will continue to gain importance among manufacturers fighting for market share,” commented Marshall.

Nav systems, also, are being used a lot more than they were just a few years ago. According to the study, more than half said that they used their nav system at least one to two times per week. About four out of five respondents in the study thought that their current nav system was performing at the same level or better than their previous one.

Most heavy users of nav systems have likely had times when the nav system commands you to make a turn that's not permitted, or to take an exit or roadway that doesn't exist. One quarter of respondents have had it with outdated map information, believing that annual updates are necessary and willing to pay an average of $57 for it.

Updating most nav systems today is more fuss than it’s worth; while the fussier DVD-based systems more common a few years ago required buying a new data disc, newer hard-drive-based systems generally require a trip back to the dealership for updates. We predict that the first automaker to master an automatic live-update system will have some very satisfied customers; in the meantime, look for nav systems to be offered at lower prices, on a wider range of vehicles. They’re no longer just for luxury cars.

The 2009 Navigation Usage and Satisfaction Study was conducted in October and is based on 16,939 owners with recently purchased or leased 2009-model-year vehicles, all with factory-installed nav systems.

[J.D. Power and Associates]

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