Survey Finds Problems with Driver-Assist Systems

J.D. Power's annual survey found buyers are reporting more problems as automated safety systems find their way into mainstream cars.

In this May 19, 2019, file photo, a long line of unsold 2019 sedans sits at a dealership in Littleton, Colo.
In this May 19, 2019, file photo, a long line of unsold 2019 sedans sits at a dealership in Littleton, Colo.
AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File

As auto companies continue to fix buggy touch-screen infotainment systems, a survey of new-vehicle buyers has found there's a different technology posing problems: driver assist systems such as automatic emergency braking.

The annual survey by J.D. Power found that as the electronic safety systems find their way into more mainstream models, buyers are reporting more issues in their first three months of ownership. The problems are more than just a pain for new-vehicle owners. They affect systems that are "critical for building consumer trust in future automated vehicles," said Dave Sargent, J.D. Power's vice president of global automotive.

Overall, the number of problems reported by owners held steady from last year at a record-low 93 per 100 vehicles. The survey also found that Korean brands Genesis, Kia and Hyundai claimed the top three spots for the second year in a row, and the gap between them and the rest of the field is growing.

Ford, Lincoln, Chevrolet, Nissan, Dodge, Lexus and Toyota rounded out the top 10. Jaguar had the most problems followed by Land Rover, Mitsubishi, Alfa Romeo, Volvo, Volkswagen, Subaru, Chrysler, Acura and Mini, the survey found.

U.S.-based brands generally were close to or better than the industry average, while European brands performed below average due to problems with infotainment systems and other electronics.

The Korean brands have been plagued by a series of recalls and service campaigns to fix engine failures and potential fire problems, but that didn't show in the survey.

Sargent said J.D. Power has not found a correlation between recalls and perception of quality. "The vast majority of consumers whose car has been recalled has never had the problem show up in their vehicle," he said. "Instead, their vehicle has been recalled and the problem has been fixed before it ever manifests itself."

Traditional problems such as paint imperfections, brake and suspension noises, engines not starting and illumination of the "check engine" light are starting to creep back into the survey, J.D. Power found.

Genesis, Hyundai's luxury brand, had only 63 problems per 100 vehicles, while Kia had 70 and Hyundai had 71, according to the survey. Jaguar had 130 problems. Land Rover was most improved, shedding 37 problems from last year to hit a still-high 123.

Of the eight categories measured in the survey, infotainment was the most improved, but still caused the most problems. Owners reported fewer issues with Bluetooth connections and voice recognition.

Vehicle quality has been improving since 2014 when the survey turned up 116 problems per 100 vehicles. Quality was worst in 1998, when problems per 100 vehicles peaked at 176, according to the survey.

The 33rd-annual survey questioned 76,256 owners of 2019 model year vehicles from February through May about the problems they had in the first 90 days of ownership.

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