We’ve seen it plenty of times. A brand-new nameplate arises and takes the market by storm. It sells well, customers love it, but there’s always room for improvement, right? That’s where the market research people come in.
Through focus groups and consumer insight, the marketers report back on what the customer really wants. The follow-up model arrives. It tanks. What gives? Bob Lutz wrote in his recent Road and Track column about just what happens when consumers give feedback. It’s not the consumer’s fault, though, it’s the right questions about the wrong vehicle attributes.
He points to the Chevrolet Sonic. An owner may tell the company “I wish it was bigger.” So, engineers make the follow-up larger, but subsequently, it might be heavier and less fuel efficient. Thus, it fails.
How about the Cadillac Seville STS? Lutz recalls its striking appearance that oozed desirability. It sold very well. When market research stepped in, consumers told the department that visibility was rather poor. So, designers made a more upright windshield, and placed thinner C-pillars in. The reception? Meh.
It comes to Lutz’s final point: often, automakers throw away what made a particular car so desirable in the first place. Perhaps it’s why the Camaro team didn’t bother to fix its horrendous visibility problems.