Consumers increasingly complain about vehicle infotainment systems

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J.D. Power’s Initial Quality Survey reflects those concerns

In the opinion of consumers, new car quality rose at a slower pace last year. According to J.D. Power, the problem wasn’t under the hood -- it was in the dashboard.

J.D. Power’s Initial Quality Survey found that 25% of the problems consumers cited about their new cars involved the infotainment system. Specifically, more consumers were unhappy about how their smartphones connected -- or didn’t connect -- to their vehicle’s system.

“Owners are caught in the middle when vehicle and phone technologies don’t properly connect,” said Dave Sargent, vice president of automotive quality at J.D. Power. “This year there are many examples of smartphone technology not working as intended in new vehicles. With more vehicles being fitted with the wireless technology owners want, the study reveals an increase in connectivity problems between smartphones and vehicles, leaving many owners unhappy.”

M. of Larchmont, N.Y., is one of those unhappy consumers. He tells ConsumerAffairs that the infotainment system in his 2019 Honda has always given him problems.

“When turning on right blinker Apple CarPlay turns off,” he wrote in a ConsumerAffairs post. “Using steering wheel to change display doesn’t work. Constantly lost signal in middle of driving for no reason. Now nothing works on the system. So now the car I bought to have AppleCarPlay and maps does nothing.”

How quality is assessed

J.D. Power bases initial quality estimates on the number of problems experienced per 100 vehicles (PP100) during the first 90 days of ownership. The lower the number, the higher the quality. The industry average of 162 PP100 is only 4 PP100 better than in 2020, with 20 of 32 brands improving their quality from last year.

That’s good, but it would be even better if consumers were happier with the infotainment systems. The survey found that 6 of the top 10 problems across the industry are infotainment-related.

Connectivity has emerged as the major irritant. For the first time since 2011, voice recognition is not the top problem cited by new-vehicle owners. 

Android Auto and Apple CarPlay

Rather, owners increasingly cite issues with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity, which they claim has gotten significantly worse. Sargent says it’s clear that the industry has not met consumers’ expectations.

“Owners want wireless connectivity, and the industry has responded,” he said. “However, this has created a bigger technical challenge for both automakers and tech companies.

Sargent says both automakers and their technology partners are probably to blame, but consumers generally take out their frustrations on the manufacturers and their dealers. 

“Owners don’t care who’s at fault, they just want their phone and their vehicle to talk to each other,” he said.

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