BMW, Hyundai score big in JD Power's first Tech Experience Index

While automakers are quick to brag about winning a JD Power Initial Quality Study award, the reality, as we've pointed out before, is that these ratings are somewhat misleading, since IQS doesn't necessarily distinguish genuine quality issues. JD Power's new Tech Experience Index aims to solve that problem.

The new metric takes the same 90-day approach as IQS but focuses exclusively on technology – collision protection, comfort and convenience, driving assistance, entertainment and connectivity, navigation, and smartphone mirroring. It splits the industry up into just seven segments, based loosely on size, which is why the Chevrolet Camaro is in the same division (mid-size) as Kia Sorento and the Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class is in the same segment as the Hyundai Genesis (mid-size premium). It makes for some screwy bedfellows, to be sure. Still, splitting tech experience away from initial quality should allow customers to make more informed and intelligent decisions when buying new vehicles.

In the inaugural study, respondents listed BMW and Hyundai as the big winners, with two segment awards – the 2 Series for small premium and the 4 Series for compact premium, and the Genesis for mid-size premium and Tucson for small segment. The Chevrolet Camaro (midsize), Kia Forte (compact), and Nissan Maxima (large) scored individual wins.

Ford also had a surprising hit with the Lincoln MKC, which ranked third in the compact premium segment behind the 4 Series and Lexus IS. This is a coup for the Blue Oval, whose woeful MyFord Touch systems made the brand a victim of the IQS' flaws in the early 2010s.

But Ford and other automakers might not want to celebrate just yet. According to JD Power, there's still a lot of room for improvement – navigation systems were the lowest-rated piece of tech in the study. Instead, customers repeatedly saluted collision-avoidance and safety systems, giving the category the best marks of the study and listing blind-spot monitoring and backup cameras as two must-have features – 96 percent of respondents said they wanted those two systems in their next vehicle. But this isn't really a surprise. Implementation of safety systems from brand to brand is similar, and they don't require any input from users, unlike navigation and infotainment systems which are frustratingly deep.

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