car buyers are paying big money for technology they don't use

J.D. Power released the results of its Tech Experience Index study that measures "how much owners like [in-car] technologies and how many problems they experience with them." Among the study's findings, automakers are loading vehicles with more software and digital experiences that owners claim they never learn how to use or decide they don't need.

For example, owners report to J.D. Power that gesture controls, like those used by BMW (spinning a finger, for instance, can raise or lower the audio volume), don't improve the overall ownership experience. In fact, gesture controls received the lowest overall satisfaction score in the study for a second consecutive year.

In another example, the study found that 61% of owners claim never having used "in-vehicle digital market technology," while 51% of respondents said they didn't need it. Driver/passenger communication technology was another sore point with users, with 52% saying they have never used the technology, and 40% of those saying they have no need for it.

Conversely, some technologies are well received by owners. For American owners, rear-view cameras and so-called "ground view" cameras were among the top three desired technologies. We assume that "ground view" is a surround-view or 360-degree camera system. The one-pedal driving possible in a number of EV's with adjustable regen braking also scored very high marks and few claimed issues.

While it could be argued that owners who don't want to use a specific piece of technology should just avoid using it, the reality is that all of these unused features add cost to the final price of any vehicle. Considering that the average transaction price of a new vehicle hit a record $45,031 in September of 2021, controlling spiraling costs is a big deal.

J.D. Power's survey results found that dealerships can play a big role in explaining new technology to buyers. Scores for some technologies like trailer assistance received higher scores from owners who received training from their dealers. Unfortunately, 71% of owners say they were taught how to use tech from outside sources whereas only 30% learned from a dealer.

The results of this study are the product of responses from 110,827 owners of current model-year vehicles that J.D. Power surveyed after 90 days of ownership from February through July 2021. The study breaks out owner viewpoints on 36 technologies in the categories of convenience, emerging automation, energy and sustainability, and infotainment and connectivity.

We're not clear on some of the results and we've asked the company for clarification, but the parts we're clear on give the people at the Hyundai Group plenty of reason to pat themselves on the back. Genesis earned the highest ranking for tech innovation among all vehicle segments, followed by Cadillac, Volvo and BMW. Hyundai won the tech innovation award for mass-market brands, with Kia taking the mass-market tech second place, followed by Nissan and Subaru. 

Individual awards in the premium category went to models like the Cadillac Escalade for its rear-view mirror tech, and the Lexus IS for its reverse automatic braking and its virtual assistant. On the mass-market side, the Ram 1500 nabbed a win for its rear-view camera tech, while the Hyundai Elantra won for its front cross traffic warning technology. The Kia K5 received laurels for its infotainment and connectivity. You can check out the full results at the J.D. Power site.

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