Forget car-to-car communication or even cutting-edge infotainment systems with voice activation. According to a new report from JD Power, when it comes to connected car technology, the thing consumers want the most is a perfect representation of their smartphone's best features integrated into the dashboard.
"Owners want their vehicle systems to become an extension of their smartphone experience, with the same speed, responsiveness and functionality," said Kathy Rizk, director of automotive consulting at J.D. Power.
However, The Smartphone Automotive Mirroring Report, published this week and based on the results of J.D. Power's extensive consumer satisfaction and automotive quality studies, finds that car companies are struggling to meet this expectation. "Consumer demand is increasing for more advanced in-vehicle connectivity, and the technology is there, but the integration is far from seamless," said Rizk. "J.D. Power consultants have independently uncovered significant concerns with some of the current market executions."
Since 2013, the most cited problems have been around Bluetooth pairing and voice commands. In the 2016 JD Power Initial Quality Study, those two problems alone achieved an average 14 problems per 100 vehicles score.
"When this technology does not function as well as expected – and, in fact, creates new and unique problems – owners are understandably frustrated," notes Rizk.
The bond between consumers and their handsets is now so strong that how well a new car can mirror a smartphone's apps and functions, either via Mirror Link, Android Auto or Apple CarPlay has already become a factor in the purchase decision. It's also telling that when mirroring doesn't work as expected, consumers are more likely to blame a car company than their handset.
But while smartphones and their functionality improve constantly via software updates, new handsets and apps, cars take years to arrive and therefore automakers are in some cases struggling to get the functionality right. Only 10 vehicle brands in the US offered Android Auto and/or Apple CarPlay connectivity on their 2016 models. However, that number is expected to increase dramatically over the 2017 model-year period.
"The likely result of increased smartphone mirroring presence is that the impact on vehicle quality is expected to increase as well," said Rizk. "Automakers that can get smartphone mirroring right have the potential to reduce problems and improve satisfaction."