"This should be an opportunity," she told Automotive News. "Vehicle costs are going up quickly right now, and here's a chance to reduce costs by removing some things. The automotive space is ripe for a right- sizing in its technologies."
It's a sticky point.
Innovative new features allow drivers to do things unimaginable a generation ago. Cars can park themselves. Drivers can speak a street address and an onboard navigation system will provide turn-by-turn directions. A vehicle's owner can unlock it doors from a remote location via smart phone.
And even more advanced electronics are coming, including new levels of self-driving intelligence and automated vision systems that illuminate roadside objects outside the straight line of a traditional light beam.
Many of these technologies originate from suppliers. Parts and systems companies have become the industry's idea labs in many cases, with vast supplier investments going into R&D pursuits for new products. Automakers look to suppliers to bring them the newest and coolest additions.
But since 2015, Kolodge and J.D. Power have been researching consumer attitudes toward such vehicle features, and they have a difficult message for automakers: Consumers have tried the vaunted premium electronic features, big-screen entertainment systems, adjustable seats, lane-changing warning systems and voice-activated air conditioning, and in many cases, they are underwhelmed.
Among the problem children now in showrooms, according to J.D. Power's research: voice controls, touchpads, radio controls, factory-installed apps and the expanding suites of automated safety devices.
"The question we're posing is which technologies are winning the race and which ones have missed the mark," Kolodge said.
The consultancy presents the results of its Tech Experience Index Study each year to interested automakers and suppliers.
To be sure, there are bright spots. Emerging camera-based features are very popular with drivers.
"Consumers are really interested in, and satisfied with, anything that gives them an extra set of eyes," Kolodge said.
One in particular is the function that uses a camera to turn a rearview mirror into an unobstructed live view out the back of the vehicle. Drivers tell J.D. Power they like having improved visibility of the traffic activity behind them.
But for some other new technologies, consumers are not exactly thrilled.
Interior gesturing: The ability to use hand motions as a sort of sign language to communicate with a vehicle was unprecedented when it appeared a few years ago and hailed as a breakthrough for safety. Rather than looking away from the road into a complex surface of buttons and switches, a driver could simply gesture for more heat or a different radio station.