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Fuel efficiency, not gadgets, lure car enthusiasts

July 30, 2014

New technology can propel consumers to open their checking accounts and spend, but sometimes people just want the meat and potatoes of a product and aren't concerned with all the bells and whistles.

Voice recognition software wasn't sought after in a recent survey, but that doesn't mean it has no purpose.
According to the J.D. Power 2014 U.S. Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study, satisfaction among consumers did not receive a major boost from redesigned automobiles that featured a wide range of new tech options.

While consumers had higher satisfaction in areas such as fuel economy and the feel and style of an automobile's interior among new and redesigned models, contemporary tech features such as navigation, voice recognition and other applications we're not as appreciated.

“Manufacturers often look to new features and technologies to keep their vehicles fresh and attractive, but designing systems that consumers find intuitive and easy to use has been a challenge,” said Renee Stephens, vice president of U.S. automotive at J.D. Power. “Newly launched models surpass carryovers in impressing owners with the look and feel of the vehicle. But as we also see in our 2014 Initial Quality Study, owners are not as comfortable with the functionality of the features.”

In its 19th year of review, the APEAL Study asks car owners to evaluate their vehicle across 77 different traits. Those scores are then combined into an overall APPEAL rate, which is measured on a 1,000-point scale. The study revealed that all new and redesigned vehicles scored higher (805) than carryover vehicles (791), which are cars that didn't see a significant redesign or makeover from the year prior.

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Can technology make a car safer?

While the APEAL Study showed that many consumers weren't interested in a lot of the new gadgets being installed in cars, certain features might help a person become a better driver, which could help lower insurance rates.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that 3,328 people were killed because of distracted driving in 2012. The leading cause behind distracted driving is cellphone use, which could be curbed through hands-free software that is now available in many new cars.