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It’s Not Just You, Everybody’s Starting To Hate New Tech In Cars

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I’m spoiled. My job involves driving new cars pretty regularly. So I’m probably better than most at figuring out how all this new technology works in cars, though even I have trouble as features get more complicated and increasingly buried in touchscreen menus. But I often wonder… if you’re a normal person coming to one of these new cars from, say, a 12-year-old Honda CR-V, how the hell are you supposed to figure this stuff out?

It turns out the answer is “Just get real mad,” per the latest J.D. Power study on owner satisfaction. We have that and some news on the automotive labor front, Audi teams up with an unlikely partner on EVs, and just what is the “right” time for us to move off fossil fuels—if we ever will? Let’s close out the week nice and strong, Autopians.

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Vidframe Min Bottom

Car Owners Are Neither Informed, Nor Entertained

Apple Bigcarplay
Photo credit: Apple

Automakers: You can’t do better than Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. You just can’t. I’m not being mean here, I’m telling you the truth—and it’s what your owners think, too.

We learn this from the J.D. Power U.S. Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study, which says that for the first time in its 28-year history “there is a consecutive year-over-year decline in owner satisfaction.” Now, it’s good to remember J.D. Power does this stuff to collect car company advertising revenue, but that doesn’t mean its data isn’t solid. According to The Verge, which parsed the study, a lot of this is due to tech—especially infotainment systems:

According to JD Power’s Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study, overall satisfaction among car owners is 845 (on a 1,000-point scale), a decrease of two points from a year ago and three points lower than in 2021. That’s the first time in the 28-year history of the study that the consumer research firm registered a consecutive year-over-year decline in owner satisfaction.

Unsurprisingly, more people are choosing not to use their car’s native infotainment controls. Only 56 percent of owners prefer to use their vehicle’s built-in system to play audio, down from 70 percent in 2020, JD Power found. Less than half of owners said they like using their car’s native controls for navigation, voice recognition, or to make phone calls.

Remember, General Motors is moving away from Apple CarPlay and Android Auto systems soon, too, for its own native tech. And while that’s going to be a Google Automotive Services system, it seems to come down to how GM can program it—and the car companies are having trouble becoming software companies after 100 years of making engines and bodies and transmissions and what-have-you.

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You’d think Tesla would be crushing it on that front, but as that story notes…

Tesla continues to rank above average, but satisfaction is declining. The company earned a score of 878, making it one of the higher-performing brands in the industry. However, Tesla’s score in 2023 is nine points lower than a year ago, when the company was first included in the study. And satisfaction scores for Tesla are trending downward year over year in all 10 factors. The company isn’t eligible for JD Power’s award ranking because it doesn’t give JD Power access to owner information in the states where that permission is required by law.

Personally, I wonder how much of that has to do with Full Self-Driving or automated driving tech. So who were our winners here? Let Mr. Power and his associates fill you in:

Setting a record for the most model-level awards (for models ranking highest in their respective segments) is Hyundai Motor Group (nine awards), followed by BMW AG (five awards) and Toyota Motor Corporation (three awards).

The Porsche 911 is the highest-ranking individual model. Which makes sense. I, too, would be extremely satisfied if I owned a Porsche 911. I’d probably let a lot of shit slide there, in fact.

Audi, SAIC Team Up For EV Platforms

8642 Etrongtascariblue52
Photo: Audi

I want to say “How the mighty have fallen,” but I’m not so sure it’s that simple.

Here’s the deal: Despite being an early player in the EV race, the Volkswagen Group’s Audi division has felt a bit rudderless lately. Seriously, when was the last time anything notable or interesting—electric or not—came from that brand? It’s kind of been a minute. But behind the scenes, the whole VW Group has had trouble with its bold “pivot to EVs” plan: quality, software, missed deadlines, delayed cars, cost overruns, you name it.

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So now Audi is due to partner with an unlikely teammate to develop electric cars: China’s SAIC Motor Corp., which as Bloomberg says “marks a turning point in China’s automotive industry from learning from foreign manufacturers to innovating its own technology.”

“Chinese carmaking has finally come of age,” said Stephen Dyer, the Shanghai-based managing director at consultancy AlixPartners. “To get a vote of confidence from VW Group on platforms, you can’t underestimate the significance.”

[…] While VW has used platforms from others in the past, like Ford Motor Co.’s truck platform, it hasn’t considered a Chinese partner before.

The deal comes just weeks after Audi appointed new Chief Executive Officer Gernot Döllner, a 54-year-old VW veteran, to address challenges such as being slow to electrify and coming up with new models. Tesla Inc. outsold Audi globally in the first quarter and its market share in China is shrinking.

It’s not clear from this story if this is a global deal or just centered on China’s cars (at least at first.) But given trade tariffs, American wariness on Chinese tech and Audi’s own decline in China for lack of EVs, I’m guessing it’s more the latter. More:

Audi needs to accelerate its electrification in China to maintain market share, but new EV launches have been constrained by VW’s long development cycle, especially for its new Premium Platform Electric — produced with Porsche. This makes Audi less competitive against rapidly upgrading local competitors, said Jing Yang, the director of China Corporate Research at Fitch Ratings.

[…] Chinese manufacturers are gaining more bargaining power with their global partners, and more international manufacturers may seek deals with Chinese firms, at least to serve the local market as they need to ramp up EV sales, Yang said.

It’s not just batteries and software the Chinese EV makers have gotten good at: it’s speed, too. Their ability to develop new models far outpaces the rest of the world, like where Toyota and the Japanese were at in the 1980s compared to everyone else. Speaking of…

Elon Musk Casts A Long Shadow Over UAW Negotiations

Tesla Model S 2013 1600 86
Photo: Tesla

We’ve been telling you for months to keep an eye on the United Auto Workers’ negotiations with the Big Three, which are underway now. In short: the new leadership is militant as hell, the members are worried about their jobs in an era when EV production probably means fewer jobs, and automakers are as thirsty as ever for profits.

And according to Reuters, Tesla is a kind of benchmark for how this could go:

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Tesla CEO Elon Musk and the automaker’s increasingly profitable and efficient electric-vehicle factories will be shadow participants, just as Japanese automaker Toyota and its lean production system were for much of the past 30 years.

Take a moment to appreciate just how wild that statement is. The Machine That Changed The World is getting wholly disrupted by a startup that people (even me, at times) spent a decade writing off. What interesting times we find ourselves in. Anyway:

Tesla enjoys an operating-profit advantage over General Motors and Ford that ranges from nearly $2,800 per vehicle for GM to $3,970 per vehicle for Ford, based on a Reuters analysis of financial results at each automaker.

Stellantis’ North American operations last year out-earned all three in operating profit per vehicle, earning $8,365 per vehicle to beat Tesla’s latest second-quarter figure by nearly $1,200. That is in part due to Stellantis North America’s focus on combustion pickup trucks and Jeep SUVs that command hefty profit margins.

Looking forward, Detroit Three executives say new contracts with the UAW must allow them to be “competitive” as their U.S. operations shift to building EVs, which are money-losers for the legacy automakers now.

[…] The Detroit manufacturers are expected to bring comparisons with Tesla to the bargaining table, people familiar with the process said.

“Tesla today plays the role of the Japanese and German automakers in the ’80s,” said Harley Shaiken, a labor professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who has followed the U.S. industry.

Good Lord. Anyway, here’s what UAW President Shawn Fain says in a sentence that starts off genially and ends like a roundhouse kick to the face:

“As we embark on this EV journey,” he said, “we are constantly presented with the same tired script from the companies; that we must remain ‘competitive,’ which is nothing more than a continued race to the bottom in a quest to follow the lowest bidder to pay poverty wages.”

That story’s worth a read in full, but it estimates that “at about 30 hours of work to assemble a vehicle, Tesla would have a direct labor cost advantage of as much as $660 per vehicle over one of the Detroit Three.” Now I’m not sure if that’s Tesla in Texas, California or China, but I’m assuming it’s in the U.S. for these purposes and because Tesla’s Chinese-made cars aren’t exported here.

Either way, the EV age of union negotiations is upon us and it’s about to get real ugly.

Climate, Labor Or U.S. Competitiveness: Pick (Maybe) Two

A Mustang Mach E At At Tesla Charging Station.
Photo: Ford

For now, the usually reliably Democratic UAW’s withholding an endorsement of President Joe Biden as it seeks labor guarantees from the White House. You get why the Democrats are in a tough spot.

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What do you go for most? American-made EVs and supply chains? Okay, that could mean fewer U.S. auto industry jobs. Labor? Great, as you should, but see the points on either side about “competitiveness.” The climate? Well, you could let a bunch of dirt-cheap Chinese EV brands into this country with no tariffs for buyers to flock to… and that would probably trash a bunch of our car companies.

These are some of the risks facing the government, workers and the auto industry as this transition takes place, leading Automotive News to wonder what a “Goldilocks”—you know, just right—shift to EVs looks like:

In a too-fast scenario, in which U.S. regulators and policymakers push EV mandates without sufficient supply chain, infrastructure and market conditions, Bozzella said China could gain a stronger foothold in America’s battery supply chain and auto market — an outcome he likened to that of the European Union, which plans to ban new combustion-engine cars by 2035 and faces a threat of cost-competitive Chinese EVs flooding the market.

But move too slowly on electrification, he warned, and there’s a risk of the U.S. failing to scale up in time, allowing China to lock up global EV supply chains and expand into other markets.

Other EV stakeholders and climate advocates aren’t so convinced by Bozzella’s framing of the dilemma, as federal policy actions under the Biden administration aim to address many of his concerns.

Broadly (and you’re welcome to disagree with me here, as is your right) I tend to think fixing climate change isn’t compatible with the hard realities of shareholder capitalism. But these are U.S. jobs we’re talking about, not to mention legitimate, practical considerations for people moving to EVs, like affordability and charging.

Anyway, I’m glad I’m just writing about this stuff and not in charge of figuring it out. I’m busy enough as-is.

Your Turn

Let’s end this week on a positive note, shall we? What new car technology do you actually like? What doesn’t drive you insane?

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It’s Apple CarPlay, isn’t it?

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Ben
Ben
9 months ago

You can’t do better than Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

I have no experience with CarPlay because I refuse to touch anything Apple, but Android Auto has been a buggy annoyance in my experience. I kind of can’t believe people are willing to put up with it, but I guess having Google Maps on your main screen is worth it?

My ideal setup is a standalone GPS screen so I can always see the map, with basic bluetooth audio on the main screen. While driving, nothing else should be on the screen – no climate controls, no movies, no games, nothing. I realize the idea of having a standalone GPS probably makes me a Luddite, but I’ve tried to use phone navigation and I always find it annoying. When I reach my destination I don’t want them to overlay the map screen with a list of local restaurants because their business model is selling ads, not navigation.

Steve Schriefer
Steve Schriefer
10 months ago

I miss Mazda’s oscillating air vents.Why did those die?

Vee
Vee
10 months ago

Honestly as someone who grew up being deeply into electronics and still is… Dude, just give me a ’96 Ranger Splash. I just fucking can’t with all of this new shit. I don’t give a shit about satellite navigation, I know how to do road directional navigation. The stupid laggy screen gauges are a problem because often times they’re 5-10MPH behind my actual speed when pulling away from a stop sign or light. A local town has police so twitchy they’ll pull you for doing three over, meaning it’s actually scary driving a newer vehicle with laggy LCD/LED screen gauges there.
And the fucking “safety” systems, oh my god. I hate that whenever anything goes by me on the interstate six different lights that are two different colours light up in the interior (the external “blindspot” mirror lights, the internal “blindspot” lights on the A-pillar, the “near object” light in the gauge cluster, and the “rear near object” light embedded in the center mirror) and distracts the hell out of me at night. I can’t imagine what it’s like for people with ADHD. Forward emergency braking’s fucking dangerous too. I’ve had it engage for no reason in heavy rain and it nearly made me lose control of the car. And the collision prevention system’s just as bad.
The other day I was driving a family member’s car and was backing out of a parking space in a Wal-Mart. The parking spaces are angled, so you’ve got plenty of room. Behind me there was a guy walking. I saw him in the mirrors and kept track of him as I backed out, since he was all the way on the other side of the twenty four foot wide aisle. I could’ve backed out all the way and still given him a good three to five feet of space depending on if he wanted to move closer to the cars on the other side. I start backing out so slowly the speedometer still says zero, get about three feet out, and then the car slams the brakes the rest of the way on and yeets itself into park, scaring the shit out of me, my passengers, and the dude walking past. For the next ten seconds the grievous pile of plastic and steel screamed at me in 3KHz square waves, going full fucking helicopter parent until it thought I learned my lesson.

Cerberus
Cerberus
10 months ago
Reply to  Vee

Have ADD and I find all that obnoxious, stupid wuss BS to be an absolute menace with no redeemable value for anyone who takes their responsibility of paying attention while driving seriously (which I have no problem doing even with ADD). I just had a Corolla hybrid loaner and at the end of the first drive, I shut off all the crap. It was nice that all of them stay off at restart except for the Automatic Panic Braking, though you can set it to a “low sensitivity” setting that only flips the fuck out with flashing red lights and beeping when approaching to pass a car in front that is clearly in the process of switching lanes/turning.

Edward
Edward
10 months ago

As a longtime, now semi retired professional mechanic I would love to see automatic transmission dipsticks on new cars. Having to jack a car up and get out a scanner to check transmission fluid level is bullshit. I also don’t want to have to need an expensive scanner to replace rear brake pads, or to do a simple 12v battery replacement.
In the same vein, can we please do away with insanely expensive, hard to find proprietary fluids? There’s no reason why we need literally 12 different types of ATF, or 8 different colors and formulations of engine coolant. There’s aslo no reason why the GM required ATF for my TourX should list for about $57/quart when the identical fluid from Toyota or Aisin (the transmission manufacturer) is about $10/qt.

Tigertone2000
Tigertone2000
10 months ago

That is exactly me (and my wife)!
I’m in the UK and, last September took delivery of a new MX-5 (Miata) RF and also a new Kia Picanto GT-Line a week later. These replaced two cars which we’d owned for 13 years….
Talk about a culture shock – I reckon it’s taken until about now before we feel reasonably confident and able to find and use stuff more or less automatically – that’s 10 months! My wife will freely admit she ignores most of it and as long as she can safely operate the thing and go from A to B she’s happy whereas I’m more of a ‘I’ve paid for this and I will master it’ sort of guy. You should know we both had IT backgrounds as well.
We also ride motorcycles and we’re genuinely scared at the thought of other car drivers distracted and not looking where they’re going while trying to sort the tech out….
Greetings from a wet (you can tell it’s Summer as the rain is warm) UK!
Tony Bellworthy

Hoonicus
Hoonicus
10 months ago
Reply to  Tigertone2000

Gave up motorcycles decades ago. I live in a suburban area, used to be a 15 min ride to county roads, now over an hour. Not only the increased traffic, and too many close calls, but most chose 7 passenger behemoths to drive their singular selves.

Hoonicus
Hoonicus
10 months ago

Ya know,. its titled “It’s Not Just You, Everybody’s Starting To Hate New Tech In Cars” and I think my months of posting “It can’t be just me that thinks smart phones and laptops have their place, and its not incorporated into cars” has been heard. Unfortunately you don’t address that at all, and just say ya can’t beat CarPlay. Skills not practiced atrophy. The populace is losing the ability to drive responsibly. Personally, I will never purchase a connected vehicle. Soon my selections will be classic registration only. You then end with ” Let’s end this week on a positive note, shall we? What new car technology do you actually like?” OK, I’ll go with pneumatic tires, with some actual sidewall and air to cushion pothole strikes, not the ultra low profile(should be glass smooth track use only) nonsense that’s sold now.

Last edited 10 months ago by Hoonicus
Hoonicus
Hoonicus
10 months ago
Reply to  Hoonicus

Guess I’ll have to launch “The Curmudgeons Horseless Carriage With Zip” site. I’m shuttering the Genuine A.S.S. Service Center, apparently grossly overestimated A.S.S. appeal.

changedmynameasIworkinadealershipandsomeofourbrandsarentgreat
changedmynameasIworkinadealershipandsomeofourbrandsarentgreat
10 months ago

Actually I’ll add reversing cameras are great. Much as I’d like to think I have a good look, now doing both a good head check as well as having the camera helps both reverse parking as well as situational awareness. I’d be horrified if I hit someones kid reversing because they were a toddler or something and I couldn’t see them under the hatch / boot lit

Rafael
Rafael
10 months ago

Considering that window area has only shrunk since 2000’s, they are also more and more a necessity. I was horrified with the visibility on my 2016 minivan when compared to my 2001 hatch (I know, different categories, but still, both had rear hatches, and the bigger car with the bigger hatch had smaller windows in absolute size!)

A. Ocolotl
A. Ocolotl
10 months ago

I am with you on this one. Of all the tech on all the cars, reverse cameras are the ones that get my award as the most meaningfully useful impact. They’ve made it easy to park with great precision.

I don’t mind dash cams, I suppose.

changedmynameasIworkinadealershipandsomeofourbrandsarentgreat
changedmynameasIworkinadealershipandsomeofourbrandsarentgreat
10 months ago

I like streaming bluetooth from my phone to the cars audio. Whilst I do have wireless android auto, I prefer the interface of the KIA screen, so basically I’ll fire up youtube on my phone, pair the audio via bluetooth without also doing Android auto, and stick the phone way down in a cupholder or somewhere where I can’t see the screen whilst driving, and listen to music or podcasts like the Autopian that way. only real user improvement of my 2021 car compared to my 2003 car but I’m gonna get a 200 buck head unit for the Polo which will do that anyway

Last edited 10 months ago by changedmynameasIworkinadealershipandsomeofourbrandsarentgreat
Ron888
Ron888
10 months ago

Don’t you get ads and random jumps to other videos? Any time i try to listen to music on youtube i get the aforesaid rudeness which just makes me want to kill someone at youtube. What am i doing wrong??

Captain Zoll
Captain Zoll
10 months ago

The climate? Well, you could let a bunch of dirt-cheap Chinese EV brands into this country with no tariffs for buyers to flock to… and that would probably trash a bunch of our car companies.

It would likely also trash the climate even more; part of the reason those Chinese EVs are dirt cheap is because they’re made with no regard for the environment or climate.

ProudLuddite
ProudLuddite
10 months ago

Modern stuff I like. Blind spot warning, navigation and Bluetooth. I daily a 2002 Lexus IS300, it still feels like luxury to me, but when I grew up power windows and AC were luxury items. I have older cars too, I can add Bluetooth with a $20 dongle that plugs into the cigarette lighter. If I have that and my phone to play music I really don’t miss any of the rest of it.

I could probably get used to the key fob thing, but I drive my wife’s car so seldom that I still grab it out of habit when I approach the car. Auto off at stops is irritating, but our Subaru bucks like a tractor everytime it starts back up, which probably doesn’t help. Adaptive cruise, meh, fun to play with the technology for a bit, but still more comfortable smoothly staying within the flow of traffic with my feet. Not much else to do when going down the highway anyway.

As far as all the tech and figuring out how to use it, we bought the Subaru and promptly went on a trip halfway across the country to the East coast in it. Learned how to do everything with the manual and YouTube as we cruised down the highway. Have forgotten half of it now.

Knowonelse
Knowonelse
10 months ago

I wonder if the JD Powers stuff segregated a car’s radio from a built-in system? If I was asked about car audio in general like this “prefer to use their vehicle’s built-in system to play audio” I wouldn’t know how to answer. I use the car’s “built-in system” all the time; the radio. When out of range, I use my phone to listen to the same radio station through the internet which is through the car system.

ScottyB
ScottyB
10 months ago

Yes, it’s Apple CarPlay. After suffering through three different manufacturers ham-handed attempt at phone integration, I absolutely would not consider another car without it.

I’m good for now as I had the dumb luck to buy a new car I really liked in 2019, but I’m kind of terrified when I do need to get something different I won’t be able to find anything that doesn’t look like it has a giant-sized tablet nailed to the dashboard. Taking up room that was previously allocated to the windshield for more screen space is idiotic.

Vetatur Fumare
Vetatur Fumare
9 months ago
Reply to  ScottyB

Personally, I don’t see the advantage of integration. I have only really used it in an Audi Q3, but simply using my phone for directions works just as well (as long as there is a place to dock it).

Freelivin2713
Freelivin2713
9 months ago
Reply to  ScottyB

Agreed on the “tack a screen on the dashboard” Stupidest thing I’ve ever seen

Rafael
Rafael
10 months ago

There is such thing as too much tech. You wouldn’t add a touchscreen to toilet paper. Well, unless you are GM, in which case you will need to navigate five screens to enable swiping from front to back, which SHOULD’VE BEEN THE DEFAULT IN THE FIRST PLACE!
Worse still? It will revert back next time someone else uses the roll.

Doctor Nine
Doctor Nine
10 months ago
Reply to  Rafael

OK, so that one made me laugh right out loud….

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
10 months ago
Reply to  Rafael

It’ll also reboot in the middle of dispensing and be unavailable for 10 minutes.

Hillbilly Ocean
Hillbilly Ocean
9 months ago
Reply to  Rafael

Worser yet? It won’t actually wipe without a subscription plan.

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