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Mobility Disruptors

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The Tiny House Movement’s Squeeze on Auto Techs

October 19, 2017

Kristin Kolodge

My family is very intrigued by the TV show, Tiny House Nation, and has been probing my interest level to make that type of home our next move. While I appreciate the minimalist concept behind such a movement, I’m a bit nervous about the lack of personal space that we each appreciate in our day-to-day lives. 

The popularity of Tiny House Nation represents a societal movement focusing on simplicity, financial freedom, elimination of excess and overall value. While “tiny cars” have not yet captured much excitement in the U.S., some carryover societal trends are occurring with automotive technology identified in the 2017 J.D. Power Tech Experience Index StudySM (TXI).

Of note is the concept of perceived usefulness. New vehicle owners are questioning each technology for its value or worth. Is it worth their time to use and/or is it worth the money they spent on it? The world has survived without it until now; maybe that’s a clue.

A new measurement within the TXI Study looks at owners who started to use a technology, but stopped within the first 90 days of vehicle ownership. This captive audience paid for the technology (through choice or compulsion) showed an initial interest in the technology but then decided that the user experience failed to meet their needs. The highest rate of occurrence for owners who tried, but no longer use a feature is In-Vehicle Mobile Router, the vehicle’s built-in Wi-Fi. When these owners (10% of the total) and those who never used the feature at all (an additional 35%) are asked why, 43% say they “did not need” the feature and 24% say they “did not want to incur further costs to use the technology.” Both reasons speak to a lack of value, a measure of usefulness, for the feature as realized by the owner.

Feature Usage Rate: In-Vehicle Mobile Router

Lack of value is central to the measure of usefulness in the context of user experience. “Value” for consumers is measured in time, money or both. And there is a lasting effect to such a disappointing experience. Owners who tried, but no longer use, the vehicle’s Wi-Fi are only half as likely to want this feature on a future vehicle, compared with owners who use the feature every time they drive (43% vs. 84%, respectively).

Vehicle Wi-Fi is one of many examples where owners are stepping back and questioning if they really need the technology. Many are using their phone’s data plan to remain connected during the drive as unlimited data becomes more affordable. Others see the vehicle as an opportunity to strategically disconnect for a few moments.

Knowing which features owners reject using, and why, helps identify those that need additional attention through design, marketing, training or packaging. As always, the consumer will remain the ultimate judge for determining the value of technology and what should be incorporated into their next vehicle.

As for the tiny house, such scrutiny for what stays or goes becomes a daily decision.

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Kristin Kolodge is executive director for driver interaction and HMI at J.D. Power. While not quite ready for a Tiny House, she considers herself on the minimalist train…or car.

The information contained herein has been obtained by J.D. Power from sources believed to be reliable. However, because of the possibility of human or mechanical error by our sources, J.D. Power does not guarantee the accuracy, adequacy, or completeness of any information and is not responsible for any errors or omissions or for the results obtained from use of such information. 

This material is the property of J.D. Power or is licensed to J.D. Power. This material may only be reproduced, transmitted, excerpted, distributed or commingled with other information, with the express written permission of J.D. Power. The user of this material shall not edit, modify, or alter any portion. Requests for use may be submitted to Any material quoted from this publication must be attributed to “J.D. Power Mobility Disruptors, © 2017 J.D. Power. All Rights Reserved.” Advertising claims cannot be based on information published in this report.


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