This week, J.D. Power released its 2015 Driver Interactive Vehicle Experience (DrIVE) Report, which reveals that motorists often don't use or appreciate the high-tech features in their new cars. The results should be a wake-up call to automakers around the globe. Heck, even Apple and Google should be concerned.
To conduct its survey, Power polled over 4,200 American consumers who'd bought or leased a vehicle in the previous 90 days. They were asked about the technology in their new rides -- which features they liked, which they didn't, and which they didn't use.
Why so soon? Why not let owners have a little more time with their new cars? Power's Kristin Kolodge explains that "The first 30 days are critical. That first-time experience with the technology is the make-it-or-break-it stage. Automakers need to get it right the first time, or owners will simply use their own mobile device instead of the in-vehicle technology."
That comes as no surprise. We spend a lot of time with our phones. They're almost always within arm's reach. Some of us panic when they're not around. We know how they work, and we know how to tweak them when settings need to be adjusted. We can argue about whether or not mobile operating systems were designed to be "intuitive", but the fact of the matter is, we've learned to think like them. We've learned to speak their language.
The same can't be said of much in-car technology, especially if a dealer doesn't explain it before a customer drives off the lot. Power found that owners were far less likely to use technology if they weren't briefed on it after the sale. In some cases -- particularly where technology had to be activated by the consumer -- respondents didn't even know the technology was onboard.
DON'T USE IT, DON'T WANT IT
The two most important findings of the DrIVE Report have to do with the technology that customers don't use and the features they don't want in their next ride.
Of the 33 tech features that Power inquired about, 16 had never been used by at least 20 percent of owners. The least-accessed tech of all was the in-vehicle concierge service, which was avoided by 43 percent of owners. Another 38 percent said that they'd never fiddled with the built-in mobile router. (Sorry, GM.)
Other ignored features included automated parking (unloved by 35 percent of owners), heads-up displays (which we use all the time, but 33 percent of Power's respondents didn't), and built-in apps (unused by 32 percent of respondents).
Slightly more intriguing was respondents' aversion to technology in future vehicles. According to Power:
"There are 14 technology features that 20 percent or more of owners do not want in their next vehicle, including Apple CarPlay and Google Android Auto, in-vehicle concierge services and in-vehicle voice texting. Among [Millennials], the number of features unwanted by at least 20 percent of owners increases to 23, specifically technologies related to entertainment and connectivity systems."
Yes, you read that correctly: even Millennials aren't that gung-ho for Apple CarPlay or Google Auto. Neither is in wide use yet, and opinions could change, but that doesn't bode well for either of the tech giants. And it brings especially bad tidings for Toyota, which, in a particularly bone-headed move, has decided to shun Apple and Google altogether and spend untold millions to build its own proprietary infotainment system.
SO, WHAT DO PEOPLE WANT, AND WHAT'LL IT COST?
Kolodge says that "the technologies owners most often want are those that enhance the driving experience and safety, which are only available as a built-in feature rather than via an external device".
In other words, as much as people might like to use their iPhones to handle music and navigation, those devices can't provide many of the safety features that consumers want, like blind-spot warning, health monitoring, and adaptive cruise control. As a result, consumers will have to pay extra for those features, and they won't come cheap.
For starters, that kind of technology is expensive to install. Many require complicated networks of radar, lasers, and other sensors to keep drivers and passengers safe. Whenever you see the word "complicated", add another decimal point to the price.
Then, when things go wrong, those systems cost a lot to fix. That doesn't just jack up your bill at the mechanic, it can also increase your insurance premium. J.D. Power's Chip Lackey explains:
"While some technologies, such as lane-departure warning, are making vehicles safer, the insurance industry is very concerned about the driver-distraction hazards caused by some of the other technologies.... In addition, technology drives up the repair and replacement costs. A slight bumper scrape that would normally cost a few hundred dollars to repair can catapult a claim into thousands of dollars when a park assist camera or other sensors are damaged."
What technologies do you love in your car? Are there any that you don't use? What systems do you want in your next ride, and which would you never pay for? Share your thoughts below.