Shockingly, New Car Buyers Are Confused and Annoyed by Safety Content

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
shockingly new car buyers are confused and annoyed by safety content

True story: a person this writer knows was recently upsold into a higher-trim version of a popular domestic subcompact crossover, with the selling point being, obviously, the model’s additional plushness and safety features. Once in the driveway, this buyer instantly grew annoyed with the vehicle’s various driver-assist features and, not knowing how to dial them back or cancel them altogether, began the process of finding a buyer.

Dealers and their salespeople have a long way to go in educating the buying public on the industry’s growing list of tech-heavy features; doing so would help boost satisfaction rates for new vehicles. A great number of people have a bone to pick with their car’s driver-assist features, and it may prevent them from sticking with the brand.

According to J.D. Power’s 2019 U.S. Tech Experience Index (TXI) Study, lane-keep assist and lane centering is the topmost complaint among new car owners or lessees angered by in-vehicle tech. Yes, a feature designed to keep the roads safe and the insurance adjuster away is something many buyers wish their vehicles didn’t have.

The study tapped the minds of 20,000 American buyers or lessees of 2019 model year vehicles. It found that 23 percent of respondents driving a so-equipped vehicle complained about the various alerts and warnings issued by the system during their first 90 days of ownership. A slightly smaller slice, 21 percent, had no problem with the warnings. Of the first group, 61 percent said they sometimes disabled their lane-keeping system for guilt-free (and perhaps signal-free) lane changes.

It’s worth noting that, of the group that found lane-departure warnings annoying, some 63 percent still desired the feature on their next vehicle. That compares with 91 percent for those who tolerate the system just fine.

The type of warning, as well as the effectiveness of the lane-keeping system, varies between brands, and this led to marked departures in satisfaction rates. Drivers of one brand showed steep dissatisfaction rates while drivers of another barely had an issue. This, in turn, left drivers more or less likely to desire the feature on their next vehicle. The low/high on wanting lane-keeping in a subsequent vehicle ranged from 59 percent to 90 percent, depending on brand.

The study, of course, didn’t look at only lane-keeping gripes; some 38 technologies came under the microscope. Vehicles were assigned a score based on satisfaction rates for these features.

Overall, J.D. Power respondents judged the Kia Stinger to have the best integrated and least annoying tech features of all vehicles in all segments. Indeed, Hyundai Motor Group ranks high in this regard. The small car category returned the Hyundai Kona as the standout in that class (tied with the Toyota C-HR), while the compact field put the Kia Forte in the No. 1 spot. The Hyundai Accent and Elantra were runners-up in those two categories.

For midsize vehicles, Chevrolet’s new Blazer earned the top score, ahead of the Chevrolet Traverse and Hyundai Santa Fe, while the large vehicle class gave the crown to the Ford Expedition. Lower on that podium were the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 and Ram 1500. The compact luxury field was dominated by the aforementioned Stinger, with the Genesis G70 and Cadillac XT4 in the No. 2 and 3 spots. Answers from midsize luxury respondents pegged the Porsche Cayenne as the vehicle least likely to annoy, followed by the BMW 5 Series and Audi Q8.

The best thing a salesperson/dealer can do is inform a buyer on how to cancel a safety feature they don’t like, if possible, or perhaps diminish its sensitivity. Think pre-collision braking range on that score. Just dial it back. Education will breed enjoyment here. Still, there’s a lesson for automakers here, too.

“The technology can’t come across as a nagging parent; no one wants to be constantly told they aren’t driving correctly,” said Kristin Kolodge, Executive Director of Driver Interaction & Human Machine Interface Research at J.D. Power, in a statement.

While sudden, unexpected braking can unnerve drivers, respondents listed pre-collision braking as the least annoying feature in the study, followed close behind (in increments of increasing annoyance) by smartphone mirroring, comfort and convenience features, entertainment, driver assist functions, and navigation.

[Image: © 2019 Chris Tonn/TTAC]

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  • 427Cobra 427Cobra on Aug 28, 2019

    I had the full safety suite in my '13 Ford Edge Limited. I found it very disorienting when bells & alarms started going off... like WTF? I was surprised that my '17 Ford Focus ST (ST3) is devoid of most of these gimmicks. The backup camera comes in handy... but beyond that, I'm glad it doesn't have too many electronic nannies.

  • Jeff Semenak Jeff Semenak on Sep 02, 2019

    One nanny I would love to see in new cars; Having the dashboard light up only if, the headlights are on when the car is moving. Too many people in Tempe drive around without noticing, or caring that their headlights are off. Their dashboard is lit up really nicely though.Just need an additional line of code in the ECU.

    • See 1 previous
    • Tankinbeans Tankinbeans on Sep 02, 2019

      @DenverMike I got a bit of the side-eye for saying pretty much this several months ago, but I wholeheartedly agree.

  • Nrd515 I bought an '88 S10 Blazer with the 4.3. We had it 4 years and put just about 48K on it with a bunch of trips to Nebraska and S. Dakota to see relatives. It had a couple of minor issues when new, a piece of trim fell off the first day, and it had a seriously big oil leak soon after we got it. The amazinly tiny starter failed at about 40K, it was fixed under some sort of secret warranty and we got a new Silverado as a loaner. Other than that, and a couple of tires that blew when I ran over some junk on the road, it was a rock. I hated the dash instrumentation, and being built like a gorilla, it was about an inch and a half too narrow for my giant shoulders, but it drove fine, and was my second most trouble free vehicle ever, only beaten by my '82 K5 Blazer, which had zero issues for nearly 50K miles. We sold the S10 to a friend, who had it over 20 years and over 400,000 miles on the original short block! It had a couple of transmissions, a couple of valve jobs, a rear end rebuild at 300K, was stolen and vandalized twice, cut open like a tin can when a diabetic truck driver passed out(We were all impressed at the lack of rust inside the rear quarters at almost 10 years old, and it just went on and on. Ziebart did a good job on that Blazer. All three of his sons learned to drive in it, and it was only sent to the boneyard when the area above the windshield had rusted to the point it was like taking a shower when it rained. He now has a Jeep that he's put a ton of money into. He says he misses the S10's reliablity a lot these days, the Jeep is in the shop a lot.
  • Jeff S Most densely populated areas have emission testing and removing catalytic converters and altering pollution devices will cause your vehicle to fail emission testing which could effect renewing license plates. In less populated areas where emission testing is not done there would probably not be any legal consequences and the converter could either be removed or gutted both without having to buy specific parts for bypassing emissions. Tampering with emission systems would make it harder to resell a vehicle but if you plan on keeping the vehicle and literally running it till the wheels fall off there is not much that can be done if there is no emission testing. I did have a cat removed on a car long before mandatory emission testing and it did get better mpgs and it ran better. Also had a cat gutted on my S-10 which was close to 20 years old which increased performance and efficiency but that was in a state that did not require emission testing just that reformulated gas be sold during the Summer months. I would probably not do it again because after market converters are not that expensive on older S-10s compared to many of the newer vehicles. On newer vehicles it can effect other systems that are related to the operating and the running of the vehicle. A little harder to defeat pollution devices on newer vehicles with all the systems run by microprocessors but if someone wants to do it they can. This law could be addressing the modified diesels that are made into coal rollers just as much as the gasoline powered vehicles with cats. You probably will still be able to buy equipment that would modify the performance of a vehicles as long as the emission equipment is not altered.
  • ToolGuy I wonder if Vin Diesel requires DEF.(Does he have issues with Sulfur in concentrations above 15ppm?)
  • ToolGuy Presented for discussion:
  • Kevin Ford can do what it's always done. Offer buyouts to retirement age employees, and transfers to operating facilities to those who aren't retirement age. Plus, the transition to electric isn't going to be a finger snap one time event. It's going to occur over a few model years. What's a more interesting question is: Where will today's youth find jobs in the auto industry given the lower employment levels?