Car Technology Isn’t Working


Dear Automakers,

Have I told you how great you are lately? I mean your cars are awesome. In fact, the latest JD Power Initial Quality Study shows fewer problems for new cars than ever before. All carmakers together averaged five percent fewer problems in 2012 than they did in 2011. Even used cars are doing great. Back in February, JD Power said 2009 cars had historically high levels of vehicle dependability .

There’s just one tiny problem. It’s your technology. It sucks.

Even the Mighty are Small When It Comes to Technology

While everything else on the car is getting better, JD Power reported that audio, entertainment and navigation problems have increased 8% in just one year. The company says, “For the first time in the 26-year history of the study, owners report more problems related to audio, entertainment, and navigation systems than in any other vehicle area.”

Once upon a time, all that high-tech stuff was strictly for the high-end cars. Ironically, it really wasn’t working that great back then. Witness Mercedes Benz’s fall from grace in the Consumer Reports world. But in a desperate attempt to be a part of the connected world, you’ve taken that marginal technology and spread it across all your platforms and the result isn’t pretty.

MyFord Touch Display

Just look at Ford. Two years ago the carmaker was number five in JD Power’s study. Along came the stunningly mediocre MyFord Touch system, and now Ford is 27th. The good news is that Ford has come out with a second generation MyFord Touch that will hopefully work better (with free software upgrades offered to old units). The bad news is that all the old MyFord Touch owners have already told their neighbors not to buy one. It’s too bad, because their cars work great.

I understand why you’re so desperate to make it work. I overheard a car company representative at a recent auto event explaining to his staff that customers want to be connected. They want their car to be connected. He told them to push their connectivity. Ironically, the next day I read a review of that company’s new connectivity system (from a very well-respected source of consumer information) that pretty much called it a waste of time and effort.

Automakers could probably do a neater job of attaching tablets to dash...

So here’s my idea. Skip the technology stuff. Just rip it out of all your cars. Let a couple of R&D guys keep working on it, but don’t allow your customers to be their guinea pigs. So how will your customers connect? (This is the brilliant part.) Have a giant empty slot on the dash where they can snap in their iPad or whatever tablet they happen to own. Come up with some apps that will connect to the radio or the backup camera. When the next generation tablet comes out, customers can just swap it out rather than look at the lame technology they’re stuck with because they bought their car three years ago.

Think about it: You’ll be helping them connect… to an iPad. Connectivity, get it?

I know you’ve spent a lot of time and effort trying to improve your technology, and one of these days you’ll get it right. In the meantime, maybe you should just use someone else’s ridiculously successful system.

You can thank me later.



  1. Besides, you are suppose to be driving the car, not playing with the gadgets. I drive behind people that clearly look drunk as they drive, but they are talking on the phone, texting, using the computer to find something. Put it down and drive, or stop and play with the toys.


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