January 7, 2013

How to Fine-Tune Advanced Development:
Use Consumer Research
By Upton Bowden

The typical design process starts by thinking of a “good” idea that improves something or resolves an issue. Engineers then take that idea and create possible solutions. However, there are often many possible ways to solve a problem. How do engineers know which solution to choose? Certainly, all options need to be optimized around a set of criteria like cost, weight, size, etc. Yet, all too often, our industry sees designs rejected by consumers even though the design criteria appear to have been satisfied. Where’s the apparent disconnect?

This lack of end-user acceptance often results when engineers did not fully understand the consumer. Design iterations often solve consumer approval issues, but this can be very expensive and slow.  To ensure our products meet the needs of our intended audience, Visteon conducts advanced consumer research clinics that support the design and development of advanced automotive electronic concepts in the early stages of development.

The engineering and innovation teams at Visteon generate many new concepts each year. However, before investing too many resources or committing to a specific solution, the research team builds methods for demonstrating advanced technologies to automotive consumers. In 2012, Visteon tested seven new concepts with automotive consumers in North America, Germany and France. Consumers experienced next-generation concepts over several hours and responded to a number of usability and affinity questions. These questions enable engineers to understand how consumers view and use the advanced concepts. Additionally, Visteon applies its “Idea Electronics Product Model” to identify how the concepts resonate with consumers and, specifically, which attributes meet or do not meet expectations.

Visteon completed Advanced Consumer Research Clinics in August and September of 2012. The results were then applied to our latest advanced automotive concepts – including the e-Bee vehicle concept we’re showing at the 2013 International CES in Las Vegas from Jan. 8-11.

Interested in seeing the product designs that were tested? Would you like to learn more about the results from the research clinic? Stop by the Visteon booth in the Central Plaza during CES and ask how Visteon uses consumer research to improve next-generation cockpit electronics.  Select this link to view a video of one of the consumer tested products, Visteon’s Ideal Occupant Interface.

Upton Bowden is an electronics marketing and portfolio planning manager at Visteon responsible for identifying innovative concepts and developing compelling automotive applications. Upton leads consumer research clinics to evaluate advanced concepts and study user acceptance. During his 21-year automotive career, he has worked in manufacturing, product design, program management, marketing and technical sales at Visteon and Ford Motor Company.