Study: Tesla, Jaguar highest in auto software defects – USA TODAY

Software glitches are increasingly bedeviling automakers with Tesla Motors and Jaguar Land Rover leading the pack when it comes to the highest rate of defects, according to a new survey released Tuesday.

Consumer complaints about vehicle software problems filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration jumped 22% in 2015, compared with a year earlier, according to the new J.D. Power and Associates study, which analyzes NHTSA records and its own data together.

As the industry’s reliance on software algorithms explodes, the number of recalls is rising, too. It reflects the fact that the car has become a computer on wheels, while also recognizing computers are prone to glitches.

The brands with the highest rate of software complaints per 1,000 vehicles from 2011 to 2016 were Daimler’s Smart car, the discontinued Japanese brand Isuzu, California automaker Tesla, Chinese-owned Volvo, and sister luxury brands Jaguar and Land Rover.

The brands with the lowest rate of software complaints were General Motors’ Chevrolet and GMC; Fiat Chrysler’s Ram; Toyota; Mazda and Subaru.

“Consumer complaints are the canaries in the coal mine for automobile manufacturers when it comes to anticipating future recalls and longer-term customer satisfaction,” said Renee Stephens, vice president of U.S. automotive at J.D. Power, in a statement. “Software-related problems have become much more prevalent and, if not addressed, could begin to erode consumer trust in new automotive technology.”

Recalls blamed on software problems rose 45% from 2014 to 2015. Automakers have issued 189 software recalls in the past five years, including 141 that could trigger a crash through defects in critical components such as powertrain and vehicle controls.

The number of software-related technical service bulletins issued by manufacturers to dealers — an internal communication regarding potential problems that doesn’t require recalls — also jumped from 58 annually from 2006 to 2010 to 160 annually from 2011 to 2015, according to J.D. Power, a consulting and research firm.

One potential solution is over-the-air software upgrades, which Tesla has used to deploy rapid changes to its luxury electric vehicles.

Software upgrades are not a panacea, however. For example, 55% of vehicle owners who experienced a navigation system problem reported that a software upgrade did not fix the issue, according to J.D. Power’s 2016 Vehicle Dependability Study.

Follow USA TODAY reporter Nathan Bomey on Twitter @NathanBomey.

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