Fifty years ago the equipment disparity between luxury vehicles and economy cars was vast, but things are different today. With the exception of nicer materials and cutting-edge technology, you can get essentially everything you would want in a basic hatchback. We’re not talking about power windows and air conditioning either; the technological trickle-down now includes things like active safety systems, heated seats, in-car navigation, multiple driving modes, and more.
As it turns out, the great unwashed masses of today enjoy their pleb-mobiles at about the same level as affluent individuals like their own diamond-encrusted executive mobility suites. The reason? Because nobody cares about premium features they can’t figure out how to use, nor do they miss technology that isn’t part of their daily routine.
Adding some mild validity to the sentiment is J.D. Power’s 2017 Tech Experience Index Study, where overall owner satisfaction with new-vehicle technology among premium and non-premium owners averaged equally. We’re not always fans of some of J.D. Power’s broader surveys, but something focused like this study provides specific insight into the typical consumer mindset.
In this case, the takeaway lesson is that average drivers will turn up their collective noses at features that require a lot of effort to use and appreciate easy-to-understand technology. The study also references a degree of “lost value” associated with some premium equipment — which eats away at the monetary value of implementing certain features, as some owners simply don’t understand how to utilize them or find them unnecessary in the first place.
“Satisfaction is very low among owners who tried a feature but no longer use it,” the study explains. “These owners represent a captive audience who have paid for the feature but, through a poor experience, have decided not to continue using it. The most prominent reason given by owners for not using features is because they do not need them.”
Among the least well-received options is the in-vehicle mobile router. When owners, along with those who have never used the feature, were asked why, 43 percent say they did not need the feature and 24 percent say they didn’t want to incur additional costs to use it. Making your car a mobile hotspot also yields little practical value, since most smartphones already have that functionality. As well, setting it up can be a pain.
All things considered, consumers seem fairly satisfied with the technology on offer in modern vehicles. J.D. Power’s survey yielded an average score of 750, out of a possible 1,000. Satisfaction was highest in the large car segment with 777 points, followed by the compacts (753), premium compacts (751), premium midsize (746), regular midsize (744), small premium cars (739), and the small car segment (732).
Car buyers were most pleased with easy-to-use safety tech like parking cameras and blind-spot detection, and more basic features like power seats and air conditioning. Likewise, satisfaction increased when dealerships bothered to help them understand how to best use a vehicle’s features, especially when the interface wasn’t intuitive. The lesson: don’t splurge on features you won’t use or can’t understand — you’ll be happier in the long run.