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OEMs lose ground to third parties on vehicle tech

Thursday, November 8, 2018 - 08:00
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Consumers have had a mixed response to new in-vehicle technologies, according to J.D. Power’s 2018 U.S. Tech Experience Index (TXI) Study, which was released earlier this year.

Smartphone mirroring, for example, has been quickly adopted by vehicle owners, and both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto have become what the research firm calls “must have” for many consumers. Both have experienced fast market share increases compared to a few other technologies like integrated OEM navigation systems.

“This rapid adoption of smartphone mirroring is the unavoidable outcome of consumers thinking that automakers are being outperformed by smartphone software providers in certain areas,” says Kristin Kolodge, Executive Director of Driver Interaction & HMI Research at J.D. Power. “Most consumers consider phone systems better for navigation and voice recognition—and they’re free. ‘Better and free’ are hard to compete with, so automakers will inevitably have to cede this territory and will be much better served by focusing on areas where they are the exclusive provider—like driver assistance and collision avoidance—and continue to hone those systems.”

The TXI Study is based on a survey of nearly 20,000 vehicle owners and lessees. J.D. Power reports that overall satisfaction with new-vehicle technology among owners of luxury vehicles averages 766, while satisfaction among owners of mass market vehicles is 765, representing double-digit improvements compared to 2017.

According to the study, 19 percent of new-vehicle owners who have factory-installed navigation don’t use it and, of these, 70 percent use another device instead (mostly smartphones).

Other integrated OEM systems have been adopted at widely varying levels. The number of drivers who say they use their lane-keeping/centering system “every time they drive” ranges from 46 percent to 67 percent, depending on the brand. Adaptive cruise control had a range of 16 percent to 42 percent

OEMs are also walking a fine line when it comes to collision avoidance and other automated systems that are considered stepping stones to self-driving vehicles. According to the study, owners may find the systems more bothersome than beneficial. 

“One element that we see as helping to increase adoption are those systems that create a good balance of consumer trust and usefulness,” Kolodge says. “They can’t be annoying or act strangely. Those are the technologies that perform well and where we see high consumer usage rates.

Lane-keeping/centering systems had the highest frequency of owners saying their system is “annoying or bothersome” at 23 percent.

However, those that are using those safety systems have found them to mostly be effective. “We asked which consumers had actually avoided a crash in the first 90 days of ownership, and the figure was 56 percent,” Kolodge says. “That’s an extremely high rate for three months of ownerships, and really propels the value proposition.”

Apple CarPlay appears to be beating Android Auto in the smartphone mirroring space, with Apple users reporting a higher satisfaction rate (777 compared to 748 on a 1,000-point scale). Google is still winning when it comes to navigation however, with 56 percent of respondents using Google Maps most often, and another 16 percent utilizing Google’s Waze subsidiary. iPhone users are also more likely to use Google Maps.

“Today’s experience with a technology drives tomorrow’s desire,” Kolodge says. “Consumers are challenging the level of usefulness that some automotive technology provides, including whether it’s needed at all. For example, although automakers’ built-in navigation systems are appreciated for image quality, owners often prefer using smartphone-based navigation because they consider it more accurate.”

If an OEM solution provides inaccurate results or glitchy performance, drivers are likely to look elsewhere. “They need to turn to another device to complete the task,” Kolodge says.

J.D. Power also found that OEMs may also lose ground in music and audio systems that are based on smartphone technology.

Kolodge says that OEMs could improve satisfaction with some of their systems by setting the right expectations of what the systems can do. “There are some collision avoidance systems that provide active steering and keep you between lanes, while others just provide a warning,” she says. “Drivers need a baseline understanding of what the technology does. Some of the driver comments indicated they felt like a ping pong ball between the lanes because of the way the system was performing. Others are startled when a system isn’t tracking a curve, and it bails without warning.”

High satisfaction with in-vehicle technology can improve overall customer satisfaction. Of the 23 percent of owners who were “highly satisfied” with the tech in their vehicles, nearly all of them (94 percent) indicated they would recommend their vehicle to others.

“Automakers need to be very clear where they can win—areas in which there’s no alternative—and where they may have to accept defeat, such as navigation and voice recognition,” Kolodge says. “The smart option in some areas may be to offer the best integration, not the least bad alternative.”

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