Consumers less satisfied with vehicle navigation systems

Despite many new-vehicle owners saying their factory-installed navigation system is better than their previous system, navigation system satisfaction has declined from 2011, as owners are frustrated by the complexity of menu systems, voice control commands and inputting destinations, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2012 U.S. Navigation Usage and Satisfaction Study recently released.

Now in its 14th year, the study identifies six factors that contribute to overall satisfaction with factory-installed navigation systems. In order of importance, they are ease of use; routing; navigation display screen; speed of system; voice directions; and voice activation. The study also measures quality by examining problems per 100 (PP100) vehicles, in which a lower score reflects higher quality.

On average, satisfaction with navigation systems is 681 (on a 1,000-point scale), a 13-point decrease from 694 in 2011. Satisfaction declines in all factors, most notably in ease of use (637), which declines by 25 points year over year.

As smartphones become more sophisticated in the functions they can perform, more owners are using them for navigation. In the 2012 study, 47 percent of vehicle owners indicate they use a downloaded app on their smartphone for navigation in their vehicle, compared with 37 percent in 2011. Notably, 46 percent of owners indicate they "definitely would not" or "probably would not" repurchase a factory-installed navigation system if their smartphone navigation could be displayed on a central screen in their vehicle.

"Manufacturers of navigation systems face a serious challenge as smartphone navigation usage continues to rise and gains preference among vehicle owners," said Mike VanNieuwkuyk, executive director of global automotive at J.D. Power and Associates. "Free apps, up-to-date maps and a familiar interface allow for quicker routing and improved interaction, including better voice recognition. Manufacturers have a window of opportunity to either improve upon the current navigation system platforms or focus on new ways to integrate smartphones."

The study finds that input and selection controls account for six of the top 10 most frequent problems owners experience with their factory-installed navigation system. The remaining four problems are the inability to read the text due to size or location; the map not showing enough street names; the system was slow to boot/connect; and the screen lighting not working properly.

"As more than one-half of the top problems relate directly to inputting information and interacting with the navigation system, there is a clear need for manufacturers to improve upon the interaction between the user and the navigation system," said VanNieuwkuyk.

Another key study finding is the level of interest in voice activation, as 67 percent of owners without voice activation in their vehicle indicate they would want it in their next navigation system, and 80 percent of those with voice activation say they would want it again in their next system. While this is a highly sought-after feature, voice activation satisfaction is 544, the lowest factor score in the study--93 points below the factor with the second lowest score, ease of use. In addition, difficulty using voice activation controls is the third-most-frequently reported problem in the study at 27.8 PP100.

"Smartphones and natural voice recognition have raised owner expectations among all vehicle segments, and manufacturers are not yet meeting these demands," said VanNieuwkuyk.

Satisfaction with the basic functions of factory-installed navigation systems, such as map routing, declines less than all those measured in the study, indicating they are performing as owners expect them to. However, satisfaction with the ease of using the system--such as connectivity with smartphones, user interface and integration with other media devices in the vehicle--declines more than the other functions measured.

"We're seeing a demand from owners for connectivity with not only other in-vehicle systems, but also their own equipment and smartphone. Navigation systems are no longer viewed as a stand-alone component, but as part of a media, safety and infotainment package, and are expected to seamlessly work together, but in many cases are falling short of owner expectations."

Among vehicle models with a factory-installed navigation system that perform particularly well are the Garmin-supplied Chrysler 300 Series and Dodge Charger and the Harman-supplied Porsche Cayenne. The Garmin systems in both the Chrysler 300 Series and the Dodge Charger perform well in all factors, particularly in ease of use. The Harman system in the Porsche Cayenne also performs well in all factors, particularly voice activation.

The 2012 U.S. Navigation Usage and Satisfaction Study is based on responses from 20,704 owners who recently purchased or leased a new 2012 model-year vehicle with a factory-installed navigation system. The study was fielded in October and November 2012.

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