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Buyers Dissatisfied With Car Technology, Reliability Study Says


It seems the quality of the cars we drive is on the decline, so says a report from J.D. Power and Associates. The thing bothering consumers, not the engine or safety, it's the entertainment. Here's NPR's Sonari Glinton.

SONARI GLINTON, BYLINE: Here's an interesting tidbit. If you're driving a car right now, the radio that my voice is coming out of or at least the infotainment system it's a part of is really important to you and how you rate your car. It's essentially a brand-new category in automotive.

RENEE STEPHENS: It's kind of a long title, audio communication entertainment and navigation.

GLINTON: Renee Stephens is vice president of quality for J.D. Power and Associates. She's been in the quality biz for more than 30 years.

STEPHENS: That category has now become the number one problem in the industry and whereas two years ago, it was number five.

GLINTON: J.D. Power put out a study on quality, and it shows because of consumers' annoyance with infotainment systems, they dinged the car companies. Stephens says it used to be that consumers talked about what broke on a car. But she says, in this survey, consumers said it's not about if the car works but how well it does.

STEPHENS: When consumers were talking about quality and talking about dependability, they were describing conditions where there really wasn't anything wrong with the technology. It wasn't usable. It wasn't intuitive.

GLINTON: The quirkiness and unreliability of nav systems, Bluetooth, et cetera, et cetera is eroding trust. And Stephens says trust is only going to get more important in the car business.

STEPHENS: If they're trying to, you know, navigate to Starbucks and the nav system, one, can't recognize what they're saying or two, sends them over to Ohio, that gives them - that makes them feel less confident in technology where they're going to want to, you know, take their hands off the wheel and eyes off the road.

GLINTON: Essentially, before the car companies make a self-driving car, they might want to make a car where you can, I don't know, easily turn off the radio. Just don't do that now. Sonari Glinton, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sonari Glinton is a NPR Business Desk Correspondent based at our NPR West bureau. He covers the auto industry, consumer goods, and consumer behavior, as well as marketing and advertising for NPR and Planet Money.

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