In our increasingly connected and entertained society, consumers see their vehicles as an extension of their life and thus push for increased content. In order to compete in today's market, automakers must provide the features that consumers are requesting. But they also must strike a balance between safety and usability.
From the consumer's standpoint, getting those features is just one part of the equation. The features also must be easy to use. Features that are difficult to operate will lower perceived quality and can hurt satisfaction.
Most agree that the quality gap in new vehicles is shrinking. But this holds true only for the traditional problem areas such as engine, transmission and doors. With increased technological content in vehicles, so-called soft problems are swelling in their level of importance.
The J.D. Power and Associates Initial Quality Study enables owners and lessees of new vehicles to identify problems experienced over a broad range of categories. In the 2007 study, over 15 percent of all problems industrywide are related to features that consumers think are difficult to use or poorly located
As the technological content of a vehicle increases, so does the share of those types of problems. They account for almost 30 percent of the problems in the mid-sized premium conventional segment, which includes vehicles such as the Acura RL, Cadillac STS and Mercedes-Benz E class.