New vehicle reliability hits record high but driver-assist features struggle

If you’ve bought a new car or truck in the last year, odds are you are pretty happy with your decision.

J.D. Power and Associates’ annual survey of new vehicle owners shows the initial quality of vehicles is better than ever.

“The industry has improved significantly in each of the past three years,” said Dave Sargent, vice president, global automotive, at J.D. Power. “Today’s vehicles have more things that could go wrong but fewer things that actually do go wrong.”

The survey, which is based on the answers of more than 80,000 consumers, measured complaints about 2017 model vehicles 90 days after they were purchased. For the second straight year, Kia was the brand with the fewest problems.

The good news: 27 of 32 brands ranked in the survey showed an improvement in quality, with the Big Three brands doing better than import brands for a second straight year.

The bad news: Consumers are complaining more about driver-assist features, including adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and collision avoidance/alert systems.

“There appears to be a lack of understanding by customers about how these features should work,” said Sargent.

The complaints about driver-assist systems are significant given the race within the auto and tech industries to develop semi and fully autonomous-drive vehicles. State and federal regulators have wrestled with how far automakers should be able to push driver-assist technology.

Advocates for the technology say it is helping reduce car crashes and highway fatalities, while skeptics say the various systems in use are not always intuitive and drivers may be more confused when the systems are sounding alerts.

“There are people who think some of these technologies are not working as they expected,” said Sargent. “But some of these systems leave you feeling like you’re wrestling with the car.”

Sargent points out that frustration is particularly evident with some lane departure warning systems.

The surge in complaints about driver-assist technology comes as some automakers, most notably Tesla, are developing features that allow drivers to take their hands off the wheel for brief stretches of time.

Tesla is not ranked in this survey by J.D. Power because the automaker does not allow the consulting firm to contact Tesla buyers through the Departments of Motor Vehicles in New York and California. Those two states are responsible for the majority of Tesla’s sales. As a result, J.D. Power said it does not have enough responses from Tesla owners to include in the survey.

This entry was posted in Auto. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply