2018 Kia Rio
2018 Kia Rio
Bruce Benedict

Rebecca Lindland found herself sitting in the cockpit of a new SUV yelling at the dashboard while driving on a sunny Wednesday afternoon.

“I was in the car and it did not understand when I said, ‘Call Mom.’ It got to the point where I was like, “Call my ... mother!’ I was enraged. It was unbelievable. Such a stunning fail,” said Lindland, an executive analyst at Kelley Blue Book. “We expect an awful lot from our cars and one them is, ‘How well does the car talk to you? And does voice recognition work?'”

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While voice recognition remains the top complaint among car owners these days, overall complaints about high-tech audio systems, entertainment, navigation and communication declined for the third year in a row, according to J.D. Power.

“They love tech that works. Our studies show they want technology, but they want it to work seamlessly,” said Michelle Krebs, executive analyst at Autotrader.

Consumers look not so much for great features as the absence of problems, like the simple ability to make a call through the vehicle or just show movies to the children in the back seat. 

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Detroit Muscle Cars 32
2018 Ford Mustang
Ford Motor Company

“Most cars have these technologies. That’s not unique. But when you have them work like they’re supposed to, it’s a beautiful thing,” said Brent Gruber, senior director of global automotive quality practice at J.D. Power. “When a car company creates multimedia technology that people like, they hit the jackpot because it’s used across a lot of their cars.”

Consumers surveyed after 90 days of ownership reported the fewest media technology problems with Ford, BMW, Kia and Porsche. And the Ford Mustang scored the best of all the top cars in every category.

“What’s interesting is that our perception data is very different,” said Akshay Anand, executive analyst for Kelley Blue Book. “Consumers think Mercedes is rated strong. Consumers assume luxury vehicles have better technology. The survey mentioned Ford and Kia? Those are not luxury brands. It’s a coup for Ford.”

Analysts noted that Ford once was known for horrific technology problems that inspired the most complaints.

This year, the Dearborn, Michigan-based automaker received top marks from consumers – specifically for its Mustang, Ford Taurus and Lincoln Continental.

In the small- and compact-car categories, South Korea-based Kia scored with its Kia Rio and Kia Forte.

BMW won the small premium and large premium segments with the 2 Series and 7 Series. BMW is based in Munich, Germany.

The Porsche 718 scored best in the compact premium category. Porsche is based in Stuttgart, Germany.

Detroit-based General Motors saw its Chevrolet Bolt, Chevrolet Cruze, Chevrolet Corvette, Chevrolet Silverado and Cadillac Escalade score among the three top vehicles in their respective categories. 

Fiat Chrysler failed to make the list for any product.

While quality of drive is still important to many people, consumers appreciate quality sound and entertainment. 

“In-car multimedia has been a problematic category for automakers for several years, as ever-more elaborate navigation, voice recognition and entertainment systems have proliferated in vehicles of every type," Gruber said. "While the area is still the leading cause of new-vehicle complaints, we are seeing some serious improvement across the board.”

Tesla was not included in the study because it builds too few cars to provide a significant sample of participants for the survey.

Other vehicles noted for having among the fewest problems: Kia Sportage, Acura ILX, BMW X1, Kia Sorento, Nissan Frontier, Porsche 911, Ford Expedition and Genesis G90, Hyundai Ioniq, Volkswagen Beetle, Porsche Macan and the Lincoln MKC.

Ford’s Jim VanSlambrough, director of Quality for the Americas, said in response to results of the annual study: “The technology in your vehicle should be helpful, easy to use and make the driving experience less stressful.”

J.D. Power is a widely recognized global consumer data and analytics company established in 1968 and based in Costa Mesa, California.

Review the survey data here:

Tops in multimedia

Here is a list of top models in the J.D. Power multimedia quality study announced Thursday.

Small: Kia Rio, Chevrolet Bolt, Kia Sportage

Small premium: BMW 2 Series, Acura ILX, BMW X1

Compact: Kia Forte, Chevrolet Cruze, Hyundai Ioniq, Volkswagen Beetle (tie)

Compact premium: Porsche 718, Porsche Macan, Lincoln MKC

Midsize: Ford Mustang, Kia Sorento, Nissan Frontier

Midsize premium: Lincoln Continental, Chevrolet Corvette, Porsche 911

Large: Ford Taurus, Ford Expedition, Chevrolet Silverado

Large premium: BMW 7 Series, Genesis G90, Cadillac Escalade

Contact Phoebe Wall Howard: phoward@freepress.com or 313-222-6512. Follow her on Twitter @phoebesaid