Navigation system manufacturers must move quickly to keep up with the pace of advancing technology, and those that do are rewarded with delighted customers, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2003 Navigation Usage and Satisfaction Study(SM) released Dec. 9.
In a ranking based on overall navigation system customer satisfaction, three of the top five factory-installed navigation systems feature voice-activated controls, an emerging technology that allows the user to verbally input commands into the system.
"The evolution of navigation systems is moving at warp speed," said Frank Forkin, partner at J.D. Power and Associates. "The challenge for navigation system manufacturers is not only to stay ahead of the wave to incorporate new technologies into their systems, but to offset them with simplicity. A system that has the latest technology but is too complex or overwhelming to the user is not the solution."
The navigation system supplied by Alpine for the Acura TSX, which features voice-activated controls, ranks highest in overall satisfaction. The same system supplied for the Honda Accord and Acura MDX ranks second and fifth, respectively. The navigation system supplied by Denso for the Lexus GX 470 ranks third, while the system supplied by Xanavi for the Infiniti FX ranks fourth.
"The Alpine system is a good example of a company that took the latest technology and packaged it in a way that is easy to use," said Forkin. "The top systems in the study all have large, high-resolution screens that look great and combine the user friendliness of touch screen controls with voice-activated controls."
Forkin says the next frontier of navigation system technology is a multi-media interface system, which bundles the navigation system with other features, such as the radio, heater/air conditioner and other telematic devices. Manufacturers are also looking for additional ways to leverage a navigation system's video monitor for use with other devices such as rear-park assist.
"There is a movement toward integrated systems, which allow the driver to control several items from one set of controls," Forkin said. "That technology is already available in a few models, with mixed reviews from consumers. Again, the key for manufacturers is to find the right balance of technology and user friendliness."
The study focuses on overall navigation system satisfaction based on performance and layout, as well as system design and integration in particular vehicle models. Nearly one-half of consumers purchasing a vehicle equipped with a navigation system express a high level of satisfaction with their system.
The majority of consumers surveyed indicate they would recommend their system to others, with many indicating that if a navigation system were not offered, it would have a negative impact on their purchase decision.
The study finds that younger consumers report much higher satisfaction with their navigation systems than their older counterparts and the younger generation is also much more likely to use their systems on a regular basis.
"Usage definitely drives satisfaction, and consumers who use their navigation systems are much happier with their systems and are willing to pay more for them than those who use them infrequently," Forkin said. "Because younger people tend to use their systems more often, manufacturers that can build an affordable system and install it in mainstream vehicle models will have an advantage over their competitors."
In 2003, more than 500,000 consumers will purchase a new vehicle equipped with a factory-installed navigation system, which are offered on nearly one-third of all new vehicle models sold in the United States. In addition to Alpine, Denso and Xanavi, navigation system suppliers include Bosch, Delphi, Harman, Mitsubishi Electric, Panasonic, VDO/Siemens and Visteon.
The study finds that the navigation systems supplied by Japanese manufacturers outperform European- and domestic-branded systems. In fact, 29 of the top 30 systems included in the study are built by Japanese manufacturers.
The 2003 Navigation Usage and Satisfaction Study is based on the responses from 7,026 owners of who recently purchased or leased vehicles with factory-installed navigation systems.
About J.D. Power and Associates
Headquartered in Westlake Village, Calif., J.D. Power and Associates is an ISO 9001-registered global marketing information services firm operating in business sectors including market research, forecasting, consulting, training and customer satisfaction.
For more information, visit www.jdpower.com