News Column

Young Consumers Want Smarter In-car Technology

July 6, 2012

As consumers grow accustomed to ever-more sophisticated cellphones and computers, they are demanding the same level of performance from similar equipment in their cars and trucks, analysts say.

"Almost no manufacturer has solved that riddle yet," said David Sargent, head of auto research for J.D. Power. "It's a collective learning experience that the industry is going through."

All auto companies are finding that consumers are increasingly touchy about the performance of their in-car technology. Problems with electronic equipment increased 8 percent from last year and now represent the single biggest area of dissatisfaction with new models. While complaints in other categories have decreased 24 percent since 2006, problems with electronics have grown 45 percent in the same time period.

"Maybe that shouldn't be too much of a surprise," said Jessica Caldwell, an analyst with the auto-research site Edmunds.com. "There's a natural learning curve for these drivers to get adjusted to these new features."

Most of the complaints about technology came from younger consumers, Sargent said. That is because car buyers who are 35 and younger have the greatest expectations for new electronic systems and use them the most.



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