Hands-free controls irk U.S. car buyers: JD Power

Wed Jun 20, 2012 3:08pm EDT
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By Bernie Woodall

DETROIT (Reuters) - Consumers continue to be baffled by new technology such as voice-activated controls in their new cars and trucks, but overall, vehicle quality in the United States has never been higher, J.D. Power and Associates said on Wednesday.

Owner complaints about technology continued to hurt Ford Motor Co's standing in the influential annual survey of new-vehicle buyers. Ford fell to 27th from 23rd a year ago.

Just two years ago, before MyFord Touch and Ford's voice-activated Sync control systems were rolled out to more models, Ford was fifth in the survey, the best showing among non-luxury brands.

This year, Honda Motor Co grabbed the coveted spot as top non-luxury brand in the survey, which expanded to include 34 auto brands, up from 32 a year ago.

For the second straight year, Lexus, Toyota Motor Corp's luxury brand, topped the survey, which asks owners to rate the quality of vehicles in the first 90 days of ownership. The survey was conducted from February to May.

Hands-free devices in new vehicles not recognizing voice commands has become the most often reported problem cited in the survey, said Dave Sargent, vice president of global automotive at J.D. Power and Associates.

Until the last several years, Sargent said, hands-free controls were rare, but this year, more than 80 percent of new owners said their vehicles have some form of hands-free controls.

Sargent said that most consumers whose hands-free and touch-screen systems function well do like them. In Ford's case, he said, customers say they are attracted to some Ford models because of the high level of new technology in them.   Continued...