Software issues threaten consumer trust in automotive technology


The number of consumer complaints about vehicle software in 2016 is already parallel to the record figure logged in 2015, according to data collected by J.D. Power through its SafetyIQ program.

The marketing information services firm said 202 formal complaints were registered with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) so far this year. During the same period a year ago, there were 204 software-related complaints.

The full year figure for 2015 was 615, 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.”

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.

In April, Nissan Motor announced that it will recall 3.53 million vehicles, citing a possible vehicle sensor malfunction, which will cause improper functioning of passenger-side air bags.

Also in April, Ford recalled thousands of vehicles due to software malfunction.

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