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J.D. Power 2021 Tech Experience Index proves it's more about how good than how much

Sure, new cars have a ton of tech features that were science fiction not that long ago, but do people actually like or even use them?

Genesis tops the list of companies doing tech the best in the 2021 Tech Experience Index.

Kyle Hyatt/Roadshow

Cars are more technologically advanced (and expensive) than ever before, but how much of that tech -- most of which is the stuff in the cabin -- do we need or even use? J.D. Power wanted to find out, and the results debuted Wednesday in its Tech Experience Index survey.

So, what is the Tech Experience Index, and why do we care about it? Well, to start, J.D. Power says that the TXI is meant to be a companion piece to the Initial Quality Study. It's a measure of just how effective automakers are at integrating new technologies into their vehicles and how valuable those technologies are to owners.

The TQI is calculated based on the responses from over 110,000 owners of 2021 model year vehicles during their first 90 days of ownership. This means that we're looking at the cutting edge from each respective manufacturer, and it also means that the people who own these vehicles likely haven't yet gotten used to or started totally ignoring anything they don't like in their new car.

That said, who's doing tech best right now? Unsurprisingly (to me at least), it's Genesis. I say that it's unsurprising because the amount of technology, thoughtfulness and effectiveness of its implementation has proven to be a high point in every Genesis Roadshow's driven. Cadillac ranks number two, followed by Volvo, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

Tesla's results aren't official, but if they were, it'd top the list.

Tim Stevens/Roadshow

The other interesting thing about the TXI is what it tells us about buyers in general. For example, one of the study's key findings for 2021 is that the way people feel about the tech in their new cars can be directly influenced by their dealer. A dealer who spends time going through all the features of a new vehicle and demonstrating them to their new owners is creating a more savvy customer who's more likely to use all the features they've paid for.

Something else that is trending is people's overall dissatisfaction with gesture controls in new cars. Owners report an average of 41 problems per 100 vehicles with this tech, and J.D. Power says that it's been the least popular feature in the survey for two years running. Conversely, one-pedal driving in an electric car presents few problems (8 PP100) and has a high overall customer satisfaction rate.

As with all of J.D. Power's recent studies, it's included Tesla in its TXI, but the listing is unofficial because Tesla doesn't meet the criteria for official inclusion. (Tesla won't allow J.D. Power to contact its customers in states where that consent is required.) If it were official, however, Tesla would rank at the top, ahead of Genesis, for satisfaction. It's hard to say whether this has more to do with the brand's tech being good (Roadshow's reviewers have found it excellent, in general) or whether Tesla's notoriously rabid owner community is skewing the results.

So, what have we learned from all of this TXI business? Mainly that it's more important to have the right tech implemented well than to have the most or even most futuristic technology. Hopefully, automakers will take that to heart.

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