DETROIT – Could in-vehicle infotainment systems be even more trouble than previously thought?
That’s the contention of Consumer Reports’ Jake Fisher, who says a deeper dive into infotainment issues cited in the magazine’s 2013 reliability survey shows not every vehicle owner may be using the systems to their full capabilities.
“There’s actually an indication that some of these problems may be underreported,” Fisher, director-auto testing for the magazine, tells the Automotive Press Assn. this week.
After receiving results of its 2013 reliability survey that showed infotainment again was a category with a lot of gripes, Consumer Reports sent a “re-contact” survey to 10,000 subscribers to delve into specifics about their car’s challenging audio, navigation and communication functions.
A trend was noticed among the 5,000 responses received: Younger survey respondents were more specific about their complaints than older respondents.
Fisher thinks this may be an indication that younger car buyers are better utilizing infotainment systems, trying every feature available and coming away unimpressed.
“Is there a relationship (of infotainment issues) with age?” Fisher says. “What we found was, while it’s true older people were more likely to say it was a complicated system, older users were less likely to (identify) any problems with it. The younger people were much more likely to say what’s not working.’”
Fisher speculates older buyers are not being more detailed in their responses to infotainment questions because they’ve not tried to sync their smartphone to their car or tried to perform Facebook status updates, activities common among younger vehicle owners.
Infotainment systems, which typically package audio, navigation and communication functions, such as hands-free phone calling via Bluetooth, in a touchscreen format, have been the bane of certain vehicle brands.
’s MyFordTouch system was a big reason why the Michigan-based automaker slumped in last year’s reliability survey, and it again was a culprit behind Ford’s dismal performance on the 2013 survey.
Just one of the 31models on the magazine’s 2013 list was credited with “above average” reliability and Ford was third-to-last among 28 brands, although it moved up one spot from last year.
Lincoln, which has a similar system in most of its models, placed 27th, down one spot from its position on Consumer Reports’ 2012 reliability survey.
MyFordTouch problems are “just spreading,” Fisher says, as Ford adds the technology to an increasing array of models.
and Cadillac are among brands that saw their standing in the 2013 reliability survey fall because of faulty infotainment systems.
Troubles with’s new dual-screen system in the ’13 Accord V-6 coupe was a big reason why that car was the most unreliable among all Honda models surveyed.
In higher trim levels of the ’13 Accord, a large screen is stacked atop a small screen, with each displaying a different type of information.
Accord owners reported problems with this configuration, as well as difficulty pairing their phones to the Honda infotainment system, Fisher says.
Cadillac owners also had issues pairing their phones to that brand’s Cue system.
Fisher notes problems with infotainment systems are not insurmountable, and that some automakers saw fewer complaints than average in this year’s survey.
Audi,, Chevrolet, Lexus and were not dinged as badly for infotainment woes.
Of the latter brand, Fisher believes’s relationship with aftermarket navigation specialist Garmin may be the reason for a relative lack of complaints with its UConnect system.
“There is a way to do it right,” Fisher says. “Technology is here to stay. It’s got to be a part of cars. People are demanding it.”