Product Design Research for Automotive Industry

New product introductions, especially as they relate to the automotive and powersports industries, can be multi-billion dollar gambles on the part of manufacturers. One misstep can do irreparable harm to a company’s image and its bottom line. Carefully planned product design research goes a long way toward mitigating that risk. By providing consumer feedback at critical decision points in the development cycle, the product development team avoids “flying blind” in the process. Getting good customer feedback early on results in a successful, no-surprises product launch.

Product design research can take many forms depending on how the product information needs to be conveyed to consumers. Verbal or textual descriptions can be handled via phone, mail or internet surveys. Image presentation can sometimes be handled online.

However, in the automotive and powersports industries, the most common way to collect viable product feedback among consumers is via a methodology known as a product clinic. Product clinics are central location surveys where people are invited to evaluate a prototype vehicle by comparing it to current competitive offerings.

The prototype vehicle, for all intents and purposes, is indistinguishable from a real production vehicle to the average respondent. A research(like Motorcycle Marketing Research) respondent can, for example, get into a prototype car and assess characteristics like seat comfort, visibility, styling and ergonomics.Potential dissatisfiers such as the design of a sun visor or radio control can be identified in time to make modifications prior to the final vehicle design being locked in.

Clinics can make use of effective methodological tools too, such as data collection via touch-screen, hand-held computers. This allows for the integration of very useful product design and pricing research techniques such as discrete choice analysis, conjoint analysis and Maxdiff exercises. The data obtained from a car clinic or motorcycle clinic can be hugely valuable to manufacturers in determining the final design of their new product which is also used in Automotive Marketing Research.

By consistently applying product design research to all new vehicle rollouts, historical data can also be utilized for interpreting the likely success or failure of new vehicles. Another key benefit is the ability to predict important production variables in time to ramp up factory designs. For example, consumer research can help of predict the distribution of coupe versus sedan designs, preferences for different engine types and selection of trim levels.

Ultimately, product design research is a very cost effective tool for helping manufacturers design products that consumers want and are willing to pay for.