Crowdsourcing car design. A risk worth taking?
While the automotive market is still rebounding from the economic downturn a couple years ago, some car manufacturers are preparing for the next big wave of buyers. According to U.S. Census data, the ‘Millennials’ – or generation-Y consumers – represent 40 % of today’s potential car-buying public. Today, there are 80 million American consumers approaching 30 years of age that carry with them a combined $1 trillion in purchasing power.
“For the car company that can successfully engage this generation, there is a tremendous opportunity,” said John McFarland, senior manager for Chevrolet Global Marketing, who heads youth research for the brand.
Chevrolet has spent the last year listening to this group of consumers by visiting campuses, social hangouts, lifestyle events, and conducting focus groups to get insight during the design two concept vehicles.
At the 2012 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) the two vehicles, dubbed Code 130R and Tru 140S, were unveiled. This duo of compact concept coupes shares the same basic architecture, but feature completely different exteriors. The cars represent GM’s commitment to crowdsourcing and their determination to increase brand loyalty within this generation – before their competitors do.
Currently, both vehicles feature a ‘2D’ interior that has yet to be designed. This allows Chevrolet to continue the discussion online as well as on-location at auto shows to encourage more dialogue as they continue to develop these concepts. Connectivity with smart phones and customizable components such as lighting and information displays are key features that Chevrolet wants to get right.
However the approach of involving the consumer too closely in the design process could backfire in several ways:
- It could give the consumers a feeling that the automaker doesn’t have a strong enough understanding of the buyer, or capable designers that can create desirable products.
- Participants that were consulted in the design process that did not have their opinions or feedback considered may also feel negatively towards the vehicles, and potentially GM as a brand.
- Focusing too much on crowdsourcing could result in a design that is very focused on one type of buyer, alienating the masses.
To control a crowdsource, communication is key. Ensuring that both positive and negative feedback is treated equally is essential to the success of these sorts of projects. If done properly, Chevrolet’s concept vehicles could be a real hit in the marketplace – and their risk taking may pay off with more than just the Millennials racing to the dealerships.