As automakers compete with one another to pack in more and more features into their cars’ infotainment systems, the outcome is that audio/communication/entertainment/navigation (ACEN) systems turn out to contribute half of 10 most problematic issues faced by new car owners, as the J.D. Power 2019 UK Vehicle Dependability Study revealed.

The study measures the number of problems experienced per 100 vehicles (PP100), where a lower score indicates better performance. The study measures 177 symptoms in eight categories: vehicle exterior, driving experience, features/controls/displays (FCD), audio/communication/entertainment/navigation (ACEN), seats, heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), vehicle interior as well as engine and transmission.

This year’s study has found that the ACEN category charted a slight improvement over last year’s findings with an average of 16.6 problems per 100 vehicles overall, though issues with built-in Bluetooth, built-in voice recognition, navigation systems and poor radio reception meant that ACEN continues to be among the most problem-prone categories.

Though problems recorded with ACEN systems have decreased from 2018, most of these are still comprised of issues with navigation systems, the report said. These have been determined to be more of an issue amongst owners of premium vehicles compared to owners of volume vehicles, which the report attributed to a higher percentage of premium vehicles using built-in navigation systems compared to volume vehicles.

“When we look at the PP100 scores of relatively new safety technologies, it’s clear that manufacturers still have work to do to perfect those systems — particularly premium brands that use them as a major selling point,” said head of European operations at J.D. Power, Josh Halliburton.

“It’s also going to be vital for vehicle makers to win customer trust in this technology if they are to convince potential buyers that fully automated vehicles in the future will be reliable. For example, such buyers are quite likely to question the safety of self-driving cars if brands still struggle with the accuracy of their navigation systems,” Halliburton added.

More sophisticated technology is considered a point of brand differentiation, J.D. Power notes, though this also creates more potential problem areas. The average score for newer safety systems such as blind spot monitoring, collision avoidance and lane departure warning systems recorded 2.4 problems per 100 vehicles (1.8 PP100 for volume brands and 4.0 PP100 for premium brands), which is higher than the 1.5 PP100 recorded for other, optional FCD systems such as alarm systems, keyless entry and cruise control.

Despite the potential issues, the study showed that repurchase intention has increased, with 49% of respondents saying they ‘definitely will’ buy again from the same brand, compared with a 43% intent to repurchase in 2015. Repurchase intent this year is 54% among owners who did not encounter problems, the same percentage as last year.

However, owners who rated cost of ownership as very unsatisfactory due to costly repairs accounted for just 16% who said they definitely will’ buy again from the same brand. This year, Peugeot ranked highest with a score of 77 PP100, with Skoda in second place with 88 PP100 and Hyundai in third with 90 PP100. Volvo ranked top of the premium brands with 106 PP100, followed by Mercedes-Benz in second with 136 PP100.