- There was exhaustive research conducted for the ground-breaking 1986 Taurus
Ford Motor Company has been a leader in traditional automotive research for decades. They dedicated tremendous resources to getting the research right. They were rigid and methodologically pure. But their methods in the past did not always yield winners. The Edsel was the most thoroughly researched car of the time. FAIL. Who can forget the rolling bricks that were the 1980 Thunderbird and Cougar. FAIL. Tempo/Topaz FAILED in the early ‘80s as the embodiment of mediocrity.
Of course there were some great successes supported by Ford’s rigorous research (Ford Truck Operations had an independent research department). The 1975 Econoline and 1980 F-Series were huge winners and the basic concepts have been winning formulas for years. It might be said that the success of these trucks was due to development independent of the car product development teams.
There was exhaustive research conducted for the ground-breaking 1986 Taurus. Research showed that the calculated risk that was the first Taurus could be a winner and could relaunch the company as a North American product leader.
Even with those successes, for many years, Ford fell into the trap of doing research to get the answers management wanted. The hypothesis was to be proven. One of their moderators confided to me that he “could get focus group respondents to say whatever he wanted.” Bad form.
Ford does not talk much about research. Like other companies, they have their proprietary methodologies. They must have been doing a fair job. Their products are competitive overall. There have been some expensive mistakes to be sure. While it is admirable that Ford lead the way with SYNC and MyFordTouch infotainment systems, they clearly failed on the consumer side to provide engineers with information on what consumers were ready to accept. FAIL.
On a personal note, when I whined that my Flex Limited could not be had with cooled front seats the brand manager haughtily said that is a feature “limited to Lincoln.” Now, given the much touted mantra of “democratization of technology,” cooled seats are available.
That brings us to today. On December 10, Ford announced “Re-imagining How to Create Future Vehicle User Experiences” with a level of excitement similar to announcing fusion power for the next Fusion. This “re-imagining” will move Ford from a “features-based” product development system to a “customer-experience-led process.” How? ETHNOGRAPHIC RESEARCH!