Volvo leads and Mini fails in JD Power's Tech Experience Index

Turns out owners love cameras and hate gesture controls

New cars are basically rolling computers. Everything from the engine to the infotainment runs on a series of ones and zeros, and a lot of that technology requires input from the driver. So it's no surprise that JD Power has a study designed specifically to discern which bits of tech drivers love and which bits they loathe.

"New technology continues to be a primary factor in the vehicle purchase decision," says JD Power's Kristin Kolodge, executive director of driver interaction & human machine interface research. "However, it’s critical for automakers to offer features that owners find intuitive and reliable. The user experience plays a major role in whether an owner will use the technology on a regular basis or abandon it and feel like they wasted their money."

The J.D. Power 2020 U.S. Tech Experience Index (TXI) Study found that Volvo owners are happiest with the technology packed inside their vehicles, followed by BMW and Cadillac, all brands that JD Power classifies as premium. The highest-rated mainstream brand is Hyundai, followed by Subaru and Kia. As was the case with the organization's Initial Quality and APEAL studies, Tesla's numbers aren't officially included because they are the only automaker that has not granted JD Power approval to contact its owners in states that require it. Tesla's projected score of 593 would have put it in second place, right behind Volvo's score of 617.

The lowest-ranked brand in the TXI Study is Mini, with Porsche right behind.

Diving a little bit deeper, JD Power's findings suggest that the technologies new car buyers care most about are related to helping them see their surroundings better. Camera systems, including rear-view mirror cameras and ground-view cameras, scored highest in five of the six satisfaction attributes measured in the study.

The technology that owners could really do without? Gesture controls. Owners who answered JD Power's survey say they don't use gesture controls much at all after initially trying them, and they don't really care if their next vehicle has them. We have to wonder if those responses might be what kept BMW out of the top spot.

The TXI Study also found that owners are split on automated driving helpers, like lane-keeping assist and automatic emergency braking. JD Power suggests that owners may need more training on those systems before they learn to trust them.

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