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Car owners say these brands have the fewest tech headaches

Phoebe Wall Howard, Detroit Free Press on

Published in Business News

DETROIT -- Rebecca Lindland found herself sitting in the cockpit of a new SUV yelling at the dashboard while driving on a sunny Wednesday afternoon.

"I was in the car and it did not understand when I said, 'Call Mom.' It got to the point where I was like, "Call my ... mother!' I was enraged. It was unbelievable. Such a stunning fail," said Lindland, an executive analyst at Kelley Blue Book. "We expect an awful lot from our cars and one them is, 'How well does the car talk to you? And does voice recognition work?"

While voice recognition remains the top complaint among car owners these days, overall complaints about high-tech audio systems, entertainment, navigation and communication declined for the third year in a row, according to J.D. Power.

"They love tech that works. Our studies show they want technology, but they want it to work seamlessly," said Michelle Krebs, executive analyst at Autotrader.

Consumers look not so much for great features as the absence of problems, like the simple ability to make a call through the vehicle or just show movies to the children in the back seat.

"Most cars have these technologies. That's not unique. But when you have them work like they're supposed to, it's a beautiful thing," said Brent Gruber, senior director of global automotive quality practice at J.D. Power. "When a car company creates multimedia technology that people like, they hit the jackpot because it's used across a lot of their cars."

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Consumers surveyed after 90 days of ownership reported the fewest media technology problems with Ford, BMW, Kia and Porsche. And the Ford Mustang scored the best of all the top cars in every category.

"What's interesting is that our perception data is very different," said Akshay Anand, executive analyst for Kelley Blue Book. "Consumers think Mercedes is rated strong. Consumers assume luxury vehicles have better technology. The survey mentioned Ford and Kia? Those are not luxury brands. It's a coup for Ford."

Analysts noted that Ford once was known for horrific technology problems that inspired the most complaints.

This year, the Dearborn-based automaker received top marks from consumers -- specifically for its Mustang, Ford Taurus and Lincoln Continental.

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