Nobody Cares About or Uses the Premium Technology in High-end Luxury Cars

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

Fifty years ago the equipment disparity between luxury vehicles and economy cars was vast, but things are different today. With the exception of nicer materials and cutting-edge technology, you can get essentially everything you would want in a basic hatchback. We’re not talking about power windows and air conditioning either; the technological trickle-down now includes things like active safety systems, heated seats, in-car navigation, multiple driving modes, and more.

As it turns out, the great unwashed masses of today enjoy their pleb-mobiles at about the same level as affluent individuals like their own diamond-encrusted executive mobility suites. The reason? Because nobody cares about premium features they can’t figure out how to use, nor do they miss technology that isn’t part of their daily routine.

Adding some mild validity to the sentiment is J.D. Power’s 2017 Tech Experience Index Study, where overall owner satisfaction with new-vehicle technology among premium and non-premium owners averaged equally. We’re not always fans of some of J.D. Power’s broader surveys, but something focused like this study provides specific insight into the typical consumer mindset.

In this case, the takeaway lesson is that average drivers will turn up their collective noses at features that require a lot of effort to use and appreciate easy-to-understand technology. The study also references a degree of “lost value” associated with some premium equipment — which eats away at the monetary value of implementing certain features, as some owners simply don’t understand how to utilize them or find them unnecessary in the first place.

“Satisfaction is very low among owners who tried a feature but no longer use it,” the study explains. “These owners represent a captive audience who have paid for the feature but, through a poor experience, have decided not to continue using it. The most prominent reason given by owners for not using features is because they do not need them.”

Among the least well-received options is the in-vehicle mobile router. When owners, along with those who have never used the feature, were asked why, 43 percent say they did not need the feature and 24 percent say they didn’t want to incur additional costs to use it. Making your car a mobile hotspot also yields little practical value, since most smartphones already have that functionality. As well, setting it up can be a pain.

All things considered, consumers seem fairly satisfied with the technology on offer in modern vehicles. J.D. Power’s survey yielded an average score of 750, out of a possible 1,000. Satisfaction was highest in the large car segment with 777 points, followed by the compacts (753), premium compacts (751), premium midsize (746), regular midsize (744), small premium cars (739), and the small car segment (732).

Car buyers were most pleased with easy-to-use safety tech like parking cameras and blind-spot detection, and more basic features like power seats and air conditioning. Likewise, satisfaction increased when dealerships bothered to help them understand how to best use a vehicle’s features, especially when the interface wasn’t intuitive. The lesson: don’t splurge on features you won’t use or can’t understand — you’ll be happier in the long run.

[Image: Mercedes-Benz]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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  • Wdburt1 Wdburt1 on Sep 14, 2017

    When the technology becomes a distraction from the fundamental purpose of the car, I reject it.

  • Tankinbeans Tankinbeans on Sep 15, 2017

    I had a my17 Chrysler 300s with that car-starting/find app, that worked maybe twice - I only tried because I was curious (I couldn't have given a flying fu-- to start the darn thing when I wasn't around); a picky infotainment system that was glitchy, randomly froze, would buzz at the top of its volume range when connected to Android Auto and a couple other features. While the powertrain was nice and the car decently "fast," the dealer sucked so hard and I lost confidence in keeping the thing. When I would try to get the dealer to work on the infotainment system, which glitched out most commonly when connected to Android Auto, the response was that I should: "use the cable which came with the phone," which I was already doing; or pay $40 for a cable from the dealer, a ridiculously stupid solution; unpair the phone and repair every time there was an update, which sounded like a bunch of BS; or run the phone straight over the Bluetooth system, and thereby defeat the whole point of Android Auto. At one point the dealer replaced a bunch of unrelated parts within the infotainment system and the problem persisted; this was after they had my car for a week and a half with no updates aside from: "we ordered the wrong parts," "the tech is out," "the part was a dud," "we need to order another part." Never once did they proactively call me to tell me what was happening. I ditched that thing like a hot potato because I completely lost faith in the dealer and refused to be around when something more complicated hit the fan, which being a Chrysler was more than likely. I know it sounds petty, but I have low tolerance for being jacked around and felt it worth it to cut my losses and move on. I went into an my17 Mazda6 with all of the things I need and use everyday and little extra. It does have the safety suite with the city braking feature, BSM with cross traffic detection (which has been useful a few times when parked between a couple brodozers); most of these I keep on because it's more of a hassle to turn them off, but I don't rely on them because I split my time in a 15 year old Buick that doesn't have any of them. Allegedly Apple CarPlay is dropping in Q4 so that should cover the nav on the 4 occasions every year that I might need it. Long story short the geewhizardry is nice, when it works, but if poorly implemented and serviced by a dealer who couldn't be bothered to understand the problems that arise they can be a major pain in the derrière. I couldn't be happier with the Mazda.

  • Kwik_Shift_Pro4X Union fees and corruption. What can go wrong?
  • Lou_BC How about one of those 2 foot wide horizontal speedometers out of the late 60's Ford Galaxie?
  • Lou_BC Was he at GM for 47 years or an engineer for 47 years?
  • Ajla The VW vote that was held today heavily favored unionization (75/25). That's a very large victory for the UAW considering such a vote has failed two other times this decade at that plant.
  • The Oracle Just advertise ICE vehicles by range instead of MPG and let the market decide.