Why Aren’t People Using the Tech in Their New Cars?

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2015 Acura TLX Infotainment

You’re in the market for a new car. There are things you must have like a certain amount of cargo room or space for so many passengers. Then there are things that are cool, but not necessarily required. That list might include a sunroof or surround sound system. There are also lots of new technology options that you might want, but despite wanting that tech, it turns out most people never use the stuff.

According to Automotive News, all the whiz-bang technology automakers pack into their cars is going largely unused. Not only are automakers investing tons of money to improve and enhance these features, but we’re paying extra for it at the dealership and still not using it.

J.D. Power’s first Driver Interactive Vehicle Experience Report found that 20 percent of new vehicle owners have never even used 16 of the 33 features measured in the report. Automatic parking goes unused by 35 percent, head-up displays are ignored by 33 percent, and in-vehicle apps are wasted on 32 percent of people. What’s the problem?

A lot of the blame falls squarely on the shoulders of dealerships. Buying a tech-filled car can be overwhelming, especially if the last new car a buyer owned didn’t even have a basic navigation system. If the dealer never explains the options and all the possibilities presented by the new system, then the buyer isn’t going to know how they work. Heck, they might not even know they exist.

As we learned at last year’s Connected Car Expo, though, the boots on the ground are having enough trouble keeping people in the dealership long enough to finish the paperwork, let alone train them on the layers of infotainment technology the OEM is adding year after year. That’s borne out by a study by J.D. Power and DealerRater, which suggested that anything more than two hours to complete a transaction has an immediate and precipitous effect on customer satisfaction.

A second problem comes from features that aren’t activated on delivery. Having to call to activate a new feature might end up on a buyer’s to-do list and eventually be forgotten. Even a free subscription is useless if a buyer is required to call to activate the service, but never makes the call.

Still, if dealers explain all the features and activate everything, there’s a good chance that it’s not all going to be used. It’s like those fancy washing machines.

They come with ten different wash settings that are perfect for different kinds of laundry. Chances are most people use one or two of those settings and don’t even care about the rest. The same thing holds for automotive technology.

The J.D. Power study showed there are 14 features that 20 percent or more of owners don’t want in their next vehicles. These include the buzz-worthy Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, in-vehicle concierge services and in-vehicle voice texting. This technology gets a lot of hype, but no one wants the stuff.

It doesn’t matter how fancy a car’s technology gets if people simply don’t want to use that tech. No amount of education will change their minds. Sometimes, all you want is a radio that plays music. Is that really too much to ask?