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OEM Infotainment: Lessons Not Yet Learned

Aftermarket autosound suppliers should take heed of the Consumer Reports 2014 annual auto reliability survey, which found OEM infotainment systems “a growing reliability plague for many brands.”

CR found that “in-car electronics generated more complaints from owners of 2014 models than for any other category.” Problems ranged from unresponsive touchscreens, inability to pair phones, and multi-use controllers that don’t function properly.

The survey’s worst first-year offender was the Infiniti Q50 sedan’s Intouch system. More than one in five owners reported a problem with Intouch.

Some infotainment systems have improved with time, CR found. “While hardly trouble-free, updates and changes to Ford and Lincoln’s notorious MyTouch systems have made them less troublesome year after year,” CR said. “When introduced, the 2011 Ford Explorer had a 10 percent infotainment complaint rate and peaked at 28 percent. The 2014 Explorer’s revised system has a 3 percent complaint rate for the same trouble areas.”

Now here’s an opportunity for an aftermarket multimedia entertainment system, integrated with OEM electronics, to simplify a driver’s life.

Such problems can just as easily arise in aftermarket infotainment products (given that companies that supply automakers also supply the aftermarket). Not all problems, however, are the fault of aftermarket suppliers. Every time Apple comes out with a new smartphone OS, autosound suppliers scramble to make sure Apple didn’t introduce compatibility problems with aftermarket head units. Android 4.1’s adoption of Android Open Accessory (AOA) and Media Transfer Protocol (MTP) forced autosound suppliers to add those technologies, which don’t work with smartphones running earlier versions of the OS. That will undoubtedly disappoint many consumers. As Yul Brynner said in “The King and I,” “etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.”

Some problems, of course, are the fault of aftermarket suppliers. My pet peeve is the elimination of dedicated on/off buttons from many a head unit. Talk about distracted driving.

But that’s another story.