Bad design affects car owners' satisfaction, loyalty

A new study by J.D. Power and Associates shows that simple design issues such as the placement of door locks and cup-holders inside a car influence how happy new vehicle owners are with their purchases, and whether they'll recommend an automaker's brand to others

Forget the myth of the new-car smell. It's a well-designed interior, from easy-to-use cup holders to the position of door locks, that satisfies most new auto owners.

That's according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2011 U.S. Interior Quality and Satisfaction Study released on September 16, which concludes that design problems, more than technical defects or malfunctions, are at the root of customer dissatisfaction with their new cars. And automakers may want to note that consumers who own cars with well-designed interiors tend to be more loyal to a brand and recommend it to others.

The study is based on responses from more than 73,000 new-car owners who bought a 2011-model-year auto. They were asked about technical defects and design issues they experienced during the first 90 days that they owned their vehicles.

Here are some key findings:

  • The top five most-frequently reported car-interior problems are all design-related, rather than technical. The most cited auto-interior failures are: interior material is stained or scuffed easily; the "cruise control" feature is hard to use or has poorly positioned controls; cup holders are "difficult to use"; the car's center console is hard to use; and door locks are poorly placed or are difficult to figure out.
  • Seventy-four percent of new-vehicle owners who report no interior design problems said they “definitely will” recommend their auto maker's brand to others. Comparatively, only 54% of new-car purchasers who report at last one interior design problem would do so.
  • Fifty percent of consumers who report no interior design problems with a new car said they "definitely will" buy or lease from that car's maker again. Only 29% of those who said they experienced at least one interior design problem would do so.
  • Owners who said they experienced no interior design problems gave an average 8.1 rating on a 10-point scale for overall vehicle interior satisfaction. Those who reported at least one design problem gave an average rating of 7.2 on a scale of 10.

Related on SmartPlanet:

Eyesight troubles? New Ford interiors to feature bolder fonts

Will car tech ding dependability?

Image:  Daiju Azuma/Wikimedia Commons

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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