Only You Can Stop Unused and Undiscovered Automotive Tech

Automakers are investing billions of dollars to put technologies in their cars and light trucks that are not being used by many of the owners of those vehicles, according to the J.D. Power 2015 Driver Interactive Vehicle Experience (DrIVE) Report.

This is not a surprise, given the customer unfriendly way Americans buy and sell cars.  After 4+ hours of buying, negotiation, the F & I guy, signing and delivery, who the heck wants to stick around just to figure out how to use the tech?  Not me.

Every carmaker has videos on how to use their automotive tech (just Google it). Do customers even know these videos exist?  No.

The study J.D. Power undertook had a good sample size–over 4,200 drivers surveyed April through June 2015.  Responses came from people following at least 90 days of vehicle ownership, again a sign of solid methodology. To me, this is reliable information, and not one of those crazy reports you hear about while listening to drive time radio.

The report finds that at least 20 percent of new-vehicle owners have never used 16 of the 33 technology features measured (not listed). The five features owners most commonly report that they “never use” are in-vehicle concierge (43%); mobile routers (38%); automatic parking systems (35%); head-up display (33%); and built-in apps (32%). 


There are 14 technology features that 20 percent or more of owners do not want in their next vehicle, including Apple CarPlay and Google Android Auto, in-vehicle concierge services and in-vehicle voice texting.  Among Gen Y1, the number of features unwanted by at least 20 percent of owners increases to 23, specifically technologies related to entertainment and connectivity systems.


Right now, my wife has a nav system that doesn’t understand what she’s saying.  Before you get started, she’s from Iowa and speaks plain Midwestern English, without a twang.  It’s easier for her to Waze on her smartphone than her onboard nav.  It’s not supposed to be that way.

“In many cases, owners simply prefer to use their smartphone or tablet because it meets their needs; they’re familiar with the device and it’s accurate,” said Kristin Kolodge, executive director of driver interaction & HMI research at J.D. Power. “In-vehicle connectivity technology that’s not used results in millions of dollars of lost value for both consumers and the manufacturers.”


Which makes the earlier quote mentioning that people don’t want Apple CarPlay or Android Auto all the more puzzling.   It may be more a perception problem, or transferring smartphone frustrations with the frustration of having a car chock full of even more tech they don’t know how to use.

In addition, owners who say their dealer did not explain the feature have a higher likelihood of never using the technology. Furthermore, features that are not activated when the vehicle is delivered often result in the owner not even knowing they have the technology in their new vehicle.


Kolodge noted that the technologies owners most often want are those that enhance the driving experience and safety, which are only available as a built-in feature rather than via an external device. In-vehicle technologies that most owners do want include vehicle health diagnostics, blind-spot warning and detection, and adaptive cruise control.


“The first 30 days are critical. That first-time experience with the technology is the make-it-or-break-it stage,” said Kolodge. “Automakers need to get it right the first time, or owners will simply use their own mobile device instead of the in-vehicle technology.”


Now we at the Hybrid and Electric Car News don’t like to focus on problems without some solutions of our own.  So unless we can quickly make the automotive buying experience an easier process, let’s look at some other options on making sure owners know how to use the tech in their vehicles:

Engage New Owners: Offer a series of short, easy-to-digest, mobile first webinars for new owners to attend.  Put the presenter in the drivers seat of the car attendees just purchased, and walk them through the shiny new automotive tech.  Showing people how the stuff works is a simple task. You don’t have to go too deep in the explanation, just give people a couple of reasons why or why not to activate it and then show them.

Bring New Owners Back:  within a day or two of purchase, offer a “New Owner” event at dealerships.  Within an hour, you can show new owners how their automotive tech works, and probably be able to explain what it does a little better than a webinar.  Some would say dealers don’t necessarily want new owners back so soon, because they might complain…

Use Onboard Electronics to Teach Onboard Electronics: Most every new car today has a screen, whether for navigation or other information.  Plus many of them have a small hard drive for music or media.  Why not put all the “how to” videos on that drive and make them available to watch in the car?

Promote Existing Online Instructional Content: If I wouldn’t have had the wild hare idea to check YouTube for video on my wife’s nav system, I never would have known.  If you tell them where they can find clarity, AND make it easy to find; they will use the resource.  Maybe put a direct link from the automakers’ homepage?  Maybe shift a little cash from the interactive budget to online ads that understand you’re looking for help finding automotive tech support–and present links to you?

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Copyright 2015 Hybrid and Electric Car News



Sebastian James

Accept no substitutes

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