Car Owners Dissatisfied with Navigation Systems, Turn to Smartphones Instead

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It appears more drivers are turning to their smartphones to help them get around, as a new survey from J.P. Power and Associates reveals that an increasing number of car owners are more displeased with their navigation systems than in the past.

Smartphone Car NavigationThe report, which identifies six factors that contribute to overall satisfaction with factory-installed navigation systems, found that happiness among drivers dropped 13 points overall from 2011, with all six categories experiencing declines. Dropping in score by 25 points, ease of use was the biggest complaint from car owners in 2012, according to the survey, which was conducted late last year.

Following ease of use, the five other factors in order of importance are routing, navigation display screen, speed of system, voice directions and voice activation. In general, drivers were unsatisfied by the methods for entering destinations, the complexity of the menu systems and the voice control commands.

As a result, 47% of those polled claimed to use a downloaded app on their smartphone for navigation purposes in their car, compared with 37% in 2011. With satisfaction for the user interface and connectivity with smartphones declining more than other functions measured, 46% of car owners said they would not repurchase a factory-installed navigation system if their smartphone navigation could be displayed on a central screen in their vehicle.

“Manufacturers of navigation systems face a serious challenge as smartphone navigation usage continues to rise and gains preference among vehicle owners,” said Mike VanNieuwkuyk, executive director of global automotive at J.D. Power and Associates. “Free apps, up-to-date maps and a familiar interface allow for quicker routing and improved interaction, including better voice recognition. Manufacturers have a window of opportunity to either improve upon the current navigation system platforms or focus on new ways to integrate smartphones.”

While the Garmin-supplied Chrysler 300 Series and Dodge Charger and the Harman-supplied Porsche Cayenne performed well in all six categories, the latter achieved a particularly high score for voice activation, which appears to be one of the most sought-after features in navigation systems currently. According to the poll, 67% of owners without voice activation in their vehicle expressed the wish to have it in their next system, while 80% of those with the feature said they would want it again in their next navigation controls.

As smartphones become more sophisticated in the functions they can perform, navigation system manufacturers will have to take these advancements into account if they wish to please their customers. The 2012 U.S. Navigation Usage and Satisfaction Study was based on the responses from 20,704 owners who recently purchased or leased a new car with a factory-installed navigation system.

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