Vehicle seats provide relatively low levels of customer satisfaction

(August 3, 2010) Although vehicle seats are the component area with which new-vehicle owners are least likely to indicate having experienced a problem, compared with other vehicle component areas, overall customer satisfaction with seats is particularly low, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2010 U.S. Seat Quality and Satisfaction Study.

Only 6.5 percent of new-vehicle owners report problems with their vehicle seats, compared with 13.5 percent reporting problems with the vehicle exterior and 12.7 percent saying they had a problem with the features/controls/displays.

Despite this low rate of problem incidence, satisfaction with seats is among the lowest of all vehicle component areas (ties with audio/entertainment/navigation), averaging 7.74 on a 10-point scale. In comparison, satisfaction with the vehicle exterior and interior average 8.32 and 8.13, respectively.

The study finds that additional seat features have a positive impact on satisfaction, with the most satisfying features being leather upholstery, memory settings and heating options.

“Although the addition of extra features also presents more chances for quality problems to occur, these features offer good market potential for manufacturers and suppliers,” said Allison LaDuc, research director of automotive product quality at J.D. Power and Associates. “Among vehicle owners who do not currently have features such as power adjustable passenger seat, power lumbar adjustment, memory seats or heated seats, approximately one-half would like them on their next new vehicle.”

Although problem incidence with vehicle seats is low, problems that have the greatest negative impact on seat satisfaction include malfunctioning lumbar support adjustment controls; forward/backward seat positioning controls that are difficult to understand or use, lumbar support adjustment controls that are difficult to understand or use, and seat reclining adjustment controls that are difficult to understand or use.

“The gap between the highest- and lowest-ranked seat suppliers has narrowed in 2010, compared with 2009, indicating that the market is becoming increasingly competitive,” said LaDuc. “This may put pressure on suppliers to not only fix problems with their seating products, but also to focus on issues with the greatest impact on satisfaction, in order to gain the greatest return for their investment.”

The 2010 U.S. Seat Quality and Satisfaction Study provides automotive manufacturers and suppliers with quality and satisfaction information related to automotive seating systems. New-vehicle owners are asked to rate the quality of their vehicle seats and seat belts based on whether or not they experienced defects/malfunctions or design problems during the first 90 days of ownership.

The study is based on responses from more than 82,000 new-vehicle owners who purchased a 2010 model-year vehicle. The study was fielded between February and May 2010.