A Closer Look at the World of the Automobile Consumer

International ethnographic automotive research

An international automobile manufacturer wanted to know how a recent launch of one of their facelifts was being received by customers. GIM’s ethnographical study conducted in several countries delivered not only results of customers’ acceptance of the new model but also garnered novel information about their target groups’ behavioral and interaction patterns from a cross-cultural perspective.

The challenge

The solution

The success

The challenge

GIM was tasked with retrieving detailed information on whether the new model was satisfying or conversely not satisfying customers’ needs, to what extent, and the precise reasoning for this. Particular emphasis was placed on the perceived difference between the European and North American markets as well as the booming Asian market.

The solution

GIM dealt with the challenge by carrying out an ethnographic research project in several countries. The goal was to investigate the superficial impressions customers had of the vehicle as well as more in-depth consumer motivations. In addition, the client wanted to find out more about their target group’s lifestyle on a cross-cultural level.

GIM recruited the “Early Buyers” of the vehicle under examination. In addition, in order to investigate further growth potential, we ensured that drivers of vehicles in direct competition with the client’s model, with a basic interest in the client’s relaunched model were also interviewed.

In total, 48 people from the USA, China and Germany were ethnographically interviewed on film. Every interview lasted two-and-a-half hours, all of which was filmed. The ethnographic interviews were divided into three methodical parts. First, the subject was interviewed at home. Then the interviewer and the subject would go to the car together, where the strengths and weaknesses of the particular model were discussed. The physical proximity to the vehicle promoted a high level of engagement from the interviewee; descriptions and opinion were delivered in a vivid and open manner. The third part of the interview was conducted while the interviewee was driving, which was also filmed. This part focused on the functional and lifestyle aspects of the individual’s auto mobility.

GIM’s final report included a 20-minute section of professionally edited video material. This engaging, vivid film granted the client access to the world of their consumers; their target market was personified and brought to life!

The success

Ethnographic studies guarantee the client a completely authentic and living insight into their customers’ consumer context. Behavioral and interactive patterns were simultaneously investigated and evaluated which is not always possible when interviews are conducted in the studio. This not only gave the client a deeper understanding of customers’ needs and expectations, but also delivered firm ideas regarding future facelifts and possible regional adjustments which could be made to the vehicle.