According to J.D. Power and Associates a common complaint that lowers vehicles’ scores on its reliability and quality surveys is manual lumbar support on seats equipped with power. Apparently drivers are not just finding their infotainment systems a pain in the neck. In its new Seat Quality and Satisfaction Survey (SQSS), the company found that owners of vehicles with this seat type were almost 5 times more likely to report a problem with the seat than those with fully power actuation.
Interestingly, owners of seats in which all the controls are manual actually report only about half as many problems.
Explaining why this type of seat even exists (only about 5% of all car seats have power, but manual lumbar operation) Mike VanNieuwkuyk, executive director of global automotive at J.D. Power said " Customer expectations, especially among premium vehicle owners, are that all adjustments on a 'power seat' will be powered, not manual. Including powered lumbar support controls adds costs to the seat and weight to the overall vehicle, which is why some automakers are opting for manually adjustable lumbar support.”
It annoys customers that they buy a car with power seats, but that one operation is not power. Van Nieuwkuyk also surmised that “It's also highly possible that many owners may not realize their power seat has manually adjustable lumbar support until after they purchase the vehicle, which only exacerbates their displeasure." This makes sense since in a test drive proper lumbar setting is not really a big priority.
The SQS Survey done by J.D. Power consists of literally millions of respondents according to the company. Its aim is to help manufacturers discern what aspects of seating customers find problematic so they may improve the designs. Many customers might not realize it, but seats are usually not made by the car companies themselves. Lear, Magna, Toyo and Johnson Controls are the top suppliers. Toyota Boshoku is one of the captive seat makers that the study found to be popular with customers. The seats it supplies find their way into such vehicles as the Lexus LS, which has power lumbar adjustment as shown in the photo.