What car shoppers care about

The most dependable cars
The most dependable cars   

What do you want in a car?

Dependability. But what, exactly, should be dependable?

Obviously the engine, the brakes, the ability to accelerate. Maybe gas mileage, or a good sound system.

Oh, wait, the car also needs to smoothly connect to Siri on my iPhone and tell me where the closest Starbucks is.

In its 2015 survey of the most dependable cars, J.D. Power has found that a growing number of car buyers care as much about the technology in their vehicles, which has nothing to do with driving, as they care about how the car actually drives.

A GS350 is displayed Jan. 26, 2011, at Lexus of Marin in San Rafael, Calif.
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A GS350 is displayed Jan. 26, 2011, at Lexus of Marin in San Rafael, Calif.

"Technology issues with vehicles are viewed as significant problems by owners, and they typically don't go away after the honeymoon period of vehicle ownership is over," said J.D. Power's Renee Stephens. The firm said 15 percent of new vehicle buyers have avoided purchasing a particular model because it didn't have the latest technology, which is "a significant increase compared with last year when just 4 percent of survey respondents said the same."

How big a deal is car tech?

The survey found that more than half of those who had a problem with Bluetooth pairing said their car wouldn't recognize their phone. Nearly a third says the phone "wouldn't automatically connect when they entered the vehicle." J.D. Power said it's important for carmakers to get it right, or buyers may go elsewhere. "Their definition of dependability is increasingly influenced by usability."

And here's a surprise...

While Lexus is seen as the most dependable brand (again), with 89 reported problems for every 100 cars purchased, check out which brand came in second.

Buick.

Yup. Buick.

J.D. Power said the GM brand moved up from fifth place last year to second in 2015, with 110 problems reported for every 100 cars bought. This puts it ahead of Toyota, Cadillac, Honda and Porsche. Most improved brands include Scion, Ram and Mitsubishi. All of them had fewer complaints per 100 cars than the industry standard of 147. (Am I the only one who finds it amazing that the average new car has almost 1.5 problems?)

What's interesting is that even though this is the 2015 study, J.D. Power canvassed owners who bought their new cars in 2012. Therefore, when it named the most dependable cars in every class, it was referring to the 2012 models. The most dependable compact cars are the 2012 Toyota Corolla and 2012 Lexus ES, but the most dependable large car is the 2012 Buick LaCrosse.

Old news? Well here's the good news. In the 2015 model of the LaCrosse, Edmunds.com points out that the technology is much improved with fewer buttons and better ease of use, including "safety features like lane change alerts and rear cross traffic alerts."