Problems with technology continue to affect vehicle reliability according to the J.D. Power 2016 U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study. The number of problems with infotainment, navigation and in-vehicle communication systems — collectively known as audio, communication, entertainment and navigation — has increased and now accounts for 20% of all customer-reported problems in the study.

ACEN is now the most problematic area on most vehicles and is the cause of the industry’s 3% year-over-year decline in vehicle dependability.

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.

“Year three is an interesting one for vehicles: they’re no longer considered “new,” but they’re too young to experience the serious issues that can affect older vehicles. Also, many are still covered by warranties, which means that owners are more likely to have problems fixed, giving J.D. Power more accurate info about those vehicles in the process,” Richard Read wrote for The Car Connection.

Consider all this when you’re targeting Sports Car Owners. AudienceSCAN found 5.3% of U.S. adults own and drive “sports cars.” And 37.5% of owners are women.

“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.

Don’t take these concerns lightly. AudienceSCAN reported 20.6% of Sports Car Owners enjoy working with technology/gadgets, so these features are important to these drivers.

“Issues with audio, communication, entertainment, and navigation technology — which Power shortens to “ACEN” — accounted for 20 percent of all problems reported by participants on the 2016 Dependability Study,” Read explained. “That helped drive an increase in visits to dealerships and caused problems per 100 vehicles to jump from 147 PP100 in 2015 to 152 PP100 for the 2016 study — an increase of three percent.”

Tech-savvy Sports Car Owners will want the ability to schedule service for their cars online. AudienceSCAN research showed 21.4% of Sports Car Owners have used the Internet via browser, tablet or smartphone to make a reservation or service appointment.

Building Trust in Technology

While automakers, suppliers and even the U.S. government are enthusiastically moving toward putting fully autonomous vehicles on the roads, consumers need to have confidence in the technologies currently in vehicles before they will be willing to take their hands off the wheel of self-driving cars.

“If you think about the technology problems from the study in the context of conversations around autonomous vehicles, the industry clearly has more work to do to secure the trust of consumers,” said Stephens. “Right now, if consumers can’t rely on their vehicle to connect to their smartphone, or have faith that their navigation system will route them to their destination, they’re certainly not yet ready to trust that autonomous technology will keep their vehicle out of the ditch.”

You’ll find it useful to know that 34% of Sports Car Owners want their vehicles to connect to their iPhones, specifically, according to AudienceSCAN data.

Expected reliability remains critical in today’s automotive market. 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.

Key Study Findings

  • The overall industry average is 152 PP100 this year, compared with 147 PP100 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 PP100 in 2016 from 26 PP100 in 2015.
  • Seven of the top 10 problems are design-related. Design-related problems account for 39% of problems reported in the study (60 PP100), a 2-percentage-point increase from 2015.

The study was fielded from October through December 2015. The study, now in its 27th year, examines problems experienced during the past 12 months by original owners of 2013 model-year vehicles. Overall dependability is determined by the number of problems experienced per 100 vehicles (PP100), with a lower score reflecting higher quality. The study covers 177 specific problem symptoms grouped into eight major vehicle categories.

AudienceSCAN data is available as part of a subscription to AdMall for Agencies, or with the SalesFuel API. Media companies can access AudienceSCAN data through the AudienceSCAN Reports in AdMall.