Detroit - Car buyers increasingly want high-tech features like voice recognition and navigation. But they're not very forgiving of the car company when those systems fail.
The top complaints in J.D. Power's closely-watched survey of new vehicle owners, released Wednesday, involved technologies such as voice recognition systems that didn't recognize commands and Bluetooth systems that had trouble connecting with drivers' phones.
The result: Just when automakers had reached their highest-ever levels of quality — as they did in J.D. Power's 2012 survey — technology glitches are dragging their scores down.
"I've had companies tell me they would rather develop a new car from the ground up than a new entertainment system," said Tom Mutchler, program manager of vehicle interface at Consumer Reports.
This year's survey questioned 83,442 owners and lessees of 2013 model year vehicles in their first 90 days of ownership.
Porsche, GMC, Lexus, Infiniti and Chevrolet topped the rankings, with owners reporting fewer than 100 problems per 100 vehicles. The worst-performing brands were Scion, Fiat, Mitsubishi, Nissan and Mini. Their owners reported 135 problems or more. Brands that bore the brunt of owner dissatisfaction often had the newest gadgetry.
J.D. Power, which has been conducting the survey since 1987, said the top complaints used to concern mechanical defects, such as engine noise, that could be readily fixed at a dealership. Now, owners complain about design or technology flaws that aren't easy for a dealer to remedy. For example, wind noise — the third most common complaint this year — is related to the vehicle's design, not its mechanical parts.