Consumer complaints about vehicle software have been growing steadily over the past several years, and 2016 is already on pace with the record-setting level of 2015, according to data collected by J.D. Power through its SafetyIQ program.
So far in 2016, consumers have filed 202 formal complaints with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) pertaining to software that controls the technology prevalent in vehicles. NHTSA had received 204 software-related complaints during the same time a year ago, and logged a total of 615 for the full year in 2015, surpassing the previous annual record of 505 set in 2014. During the past five years, consumers have registered 2,011 complaints related to automotive software with the NHTSA.
“Consumer complaints are the canaries in the coalmine for automobile manufacturers when it comes to anticipating future recalls and longer-term customer satisfaction,” said Renee Stephens, vice president of U.S. automotive at J.D. Power. “Software-related problems have become much more prevalent and, if not addressed, could begin to erode consumer trust in new automotive technology.”
Using SafetyIQ, an online application developed by J.D. Power that integrates NHTSA data with J.D. Power automotive data, investigators can see a connection between the complaints lodged and recall decisions. For example, the number of recalls is on the rise as well, up 45% between 2014 and 2015. To date, 189 separate software recalls have been issued in the past five years, impacting more than 13 million vehicles. According to analysis by manufacturers, 141 of these recalls presented a risk of crashing and 44 had a potential consequence of injury. Powertrain, electrical systems, engine cooling and vehicle control systems are the top areas for software complaints and recalls.
The Link between Complaints and Recalls
“Using this information from owner complaints, automakers can quickly identify whether the problem crosses model lines, components or even other companies with similar components/suppliers, and can begin to address the breadth of the concerns,” Stephens said. “Not every complaint registered by consumers becomes a recall, but they are all very important to manufacturers.”
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