Three decades ago, cars were technologically primitive by today’s standards. Airbags were not mandatory until 1991. Today, the advances have come so far that people anticipate having safe, self-driving cars by the end of the decade. The auto industry faces two challenges as technology systems become more complex. One is that drivers find them so complicated that they do not use them. The other is that the technology requires components that are not always available. A semiconductor chip shortage, which includes those often used in auto electronics systems, has severely limited what manufacturers can build. This has hurt manufacturer earnings and has driven car supplies down and car prices up.
J.D. Power, probably the most widely respected car research firm in America, has just released its 2021 U.S. Tech Experience Index. It divides car technology into these four measures: “convenience; emerging automation; energy and sustainability; and infotainment and connectivity.” The study involved 110,827 people with new 2021 model vehicles after they had been owned for 90 days.
Cars in the study were divided into two groups: mass-market and premium cars. J.D. Power ranked each car brand on a 1,000-point scale. Across both categories, the worst-ranked brand was Mitsubishi at 373. This was much worse than the second-worst brand, which was Mini at 424. The brand with the best rankings was Genesis, the luxury brand of Hyundai, with a rating of 634, much better than the second best, Cadillac at 551.
Speaking about the use of these new technologies, Kristin Kolodge, executive director of human machine interface at J.D. Power, pointed out: “New-vehicle prices are at an all-time high, partly as a result of an increased level of content. This is fine if owners are getting value for their money, but some features seem like a waste to many owners.”
“Non-users” of new technologies said they do not need the features. In other words, buyers are paying for features they feel are useless.