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by Tim Beissmann

The world’s automotive manufacturers are making the highest quality vehicles in history according to the latest JD Power and Associates report but in-car infotainment systems are causing owners more headaches than ever before.

The 2012 US Initial Quality Study reveals the industry average has fallen to 102 problems per 100 vehicles (PP100), a five per cent improvement from 2011. Most areas of initial quality showed year-on-year gains, although the number of problems relating to infotainment – which includes audio, entertainment and navigation systems – increased eight per cent this year.

The data continues a recent trend, with problems in this category increasing 45 per cent since 2006 while all other categories have improved by an average of 24 per cent.

Problems with hands-free communications devices are becoming increasingly common as the technology enters mainstream vehicles, with the number of reported problems skyrocketing 137 per cent over the past four years.

JD Power and Associates vice president of global automotive David Sargent said more than 80 per cent of owners surveyed in 2012 revealed their vehicle had some form of hands-free technology.

“As smartphones become ubiquitous in the lives of consumers and are ever-more sophisticated, expectations about the complementary technologies being offered in new models will only get higher,” Sargent said.

“Automakers and suppliers are working hard to meet those expectations with systems intended to make the driving experience safer, more convenient and more entertaining. However, the most innovative technology in the world will quickly create dissatisfaction if owners can’t get it to work.”

ford-sync

Glitches with Ford’s Sync infotainment system famously saw the blue oval plummet from fifth position in the 2010 study to 23rd last year. Ford largely held ground in this year’s study with its measure slipping slightly from 116 PP100 in 2011 to 118 this year, although that decline saw it drop to 27th overall.

Earlier this week, Ford US predicted its ranking would be similar to last year’s, but expects to see a “dramatic improvement” in the 2013 initial quality survey on the back of technology upgrades due to be rolled out in the third quarter of this year.

In March, Ford sent a software upgrade to more than 370,000 North American owners of vehicles equipped with its latest-generation MyFord Touch and MyLincoln Touch infotainment systems, although this came just after the 2012 survey was completed and could therefore not influence this year’s rankings.

Technical issues have delayed Ford Australia’s introduction of Sync. The Focus will become the first car in Australia equipped with the hands-free technology in August following the relocation of production from Germany to Thailand.




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