OBJECTIVE: Developing insights to reinvent the car buying experience for FORD in the bay area through research.
TEAM: Alingo Loh, Andrew Haskin, Hana Ko & Shalini Sardana.
ROLE IN TEAM: Design Research, Formulating Objectives, Methodology, User Research, Interviews, Synthesis.
Ford is the second largest automaker in the U.S. and the fifth largest in the world based on annual vehicle sales in 2010. During a time of crisis throughout the auto industry in recent years, Ford emerged as the sole American automaker in a position to survive the steepest sales downturn in decades without a government bailout. Now Ford wants to reinvent the dealership system for an emerging market of young environmentally conscious car buyers. Our goal was to generate design recommendations based in our research for Ford in order to reach out to this new audience.
Since San Francisco Bay Area is a hub for environmental awareness, research was conducted here in order to gain insight into the beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors of such a consumer.
As consumers begin the process of buying a car, they have the most amount of control over their experience in the research phase. But as the interaction with the dealership begins and progresses, this control is dramatically diminished, being the least at the price negotiation stage. For the consumer, this stage also creates the most anxiety and is the least satisfying part of the process. Herein lies a huge opportunity for Ford to put control back in the hands of the consumers by providing choices and options throughout their entire experience.
Foundation of Distrust
Existing consumer perception surrounding the interaction with the dealership is built on a foundation of distrust. There is an underlying feeling of “being pressured” and “playing mind games” during sales interactions particularly for price negotiation. This combined with a lack of transparency in understanding the pricing structure makes this part of the car buying process unpleasant and full of apprehension for the consumer. Ford has the opportunity to build integrity in the process and make these sales interactions less deal driven and more consumer driven.
The eco conscious consumer has an active outdoor lifestyle spending time interacting with nature in various ways. These interactions are a source of harmony, balance and de-stress for them. But as they enter the car buying process, these sensibilities don’t seem to be addressed especially at the dealership where the focus is only on selling the car with no regard for this consumer’s lifestyle or attitudes and beliefs. This is the Ecological Gap between the consumer and the dealership. For Ford, there is an opportunity to bridge this gap by aligning the car buying experience with the consumer’s lifestyle and sensibilities.
Ford can take this opportunity to pioneer a completely new car buying experience at the dealership that bridges the existing ecological gap in order to embrace the sensibilities and lifestyles of our audience. At the same time, by increasing consumer control with more choices along the process and rebuilding trust and integrity for the consumer, Ford can create a meaningful presence in the Bay Area that it currently lacks.