Many of the “quality problems” reported by consumers, however, have nothing to do with the actual build quality or material quality of a new vehicle. In a recent press release, J.D. Power and Associates has documented that over two-thirds of new vehicle interior complaints are design-related issues, not defects or component malfunctions.
Something as simple as a poorly located door lock switch or a cumbersome infotainment interface can lead to a poor initial quality score, and American manufacturers score worse in this area than European or Asian automakers. Overall, 69 percent of American vehicles received reports of design problems, compared to 66 percent of Asian vehicles and 64 percent of European vehicles.
The most commonly reported problems are materials that scuff easily, difficult cruise control operation, cup holders difficult to use, center console difficult to use and door locks in poor location. While the overall interior quality scores are up from 2010 to 2011, a poorly designed interior can have a huge impact on whether or not an owner recommends a particular make and model.
Of owners reporting no interior design problems, 74 percent “definitely will” recommend the manufacturer to others, compared to just 54 percent who’d do the same after experiencing a single interior design problem.
Looks like it’s time for manufacturers to go back to using focus groups on interior design, instead of just putting switchgear where it fits best.