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Experts: High-Tech Gadgets Sell Cars But Hurt Quality Image

October 24, 2003

High-tech features such as navigation systems and remote-controlled doors may be attracting car buyers these days, but automakers say such gadgets are giving them a headache from quality problems, according to a Reuters report."This is a very big issue for the auto industry right now," said Hiroyuki Watanabe, senior managing director at Toyota Motor Corp., according to Reuters. "Introducing new technologies is absolutely pointless if it's going to have a negative impact on quality." But that is exactly what is happening, according to surveys by J.D. Power and Associates. The industry saw no improvement in overall product quality in the past two years because more customers complained about shortcomings in electronic accessories, Reuters reported."Customer complaints relating to engines are falling, but those related to electronics -- particularly navigation systems -- are rising," J.D. Power President Stephen Goodall told Reuters. In a sign of just how serious the problem is getting, Japan's Toyota and Honda Motor Co., which have always ranked among the best in quality studies, saw a rise in complaints in an initial quality survey by J.D. Power for the first time in 15 years for the 2003 model year, Reuters noted.Complaints about navigation systems ranged from the quality of their directions to their failure to recognise roads under construction, according to Goodall. Longer-term dependability could also be at stake if car makers aren't careful as they rush to build new factories to keep up with demand, Goodall said. Dependability is a major consideration when customers buy a new car, and automakers often cite their survey scores in advertisements. Toyota, Honda and Nissan Motor Co., Japan's top three automakers, have led the industry in long-term dependability for years, and U.S. automakers have failed to close the gap, according to Reuters.
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