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What is a car clinic: a case study
The car market is a very special and segmented market and moreover in constant evolution. To remain competitive, car manufacturers and dealers need precise guidance on current markets and tomorrow’s consumer needs. The car companies fight each other with no holds barred by continuously launching new models designed for particular segments of users. Not only the new models but also the accessories constantly evolve becoming more and more functional and sophisticated.
But how can you know if a new car prototype or a new model of seats, dashboard, headlights will be welcome by the audience for which it was thought? It is necessary to use a particular type of market research – known as Car Clinic – in which set-up prototypes on which you want an opinion are physically shown to potential users, they are asked to try them for the necessary time and then they are interviewed.
A whole car or just a part?
Let’s assume that a car company wants to launch a new car designed for a young, dynamic woman, with an intense social life, who must move quickly in the city for her work and to accompany her children in the many activities in which modern kids are busy.
How can you know if the designed car actually meets the needs of this type of user? It will be necessary to select women with these characteristics (target, it is called in the language of market research), show the car prototype, ask to evaluate the design, sit inside to try the comfort of the seats, consider the commands of the dashboard, check the boot space, possibly make a driving test. The car brand is generally not identifiable, the car is made unrecognizable (debranded, say the marketing experts) because the brand must not influence the judgment.
Right after, with the car present, the interview is carried out. This is a motivational interview usually lasting an hour in which the interviewer / moderator will investigate all the strengths and weaknesses that the participant perceives and the psychological mechanisms that could induce them to choose or not to choose that car.
Often, the Car Clinic is not carried out on the entire car but only on parts of the car itself: for example, only the chassis, or only the front part of the vehicle can be used. In the same way you can proceed evaluating the liking of new seats or new safety devices or new models of headlights (in this case it is important not only to have the headlight available but also to have the possibility to project the light on a white wall to evaluate its intensity). The important thing is that, during the test, the car or its parts are physically present.
Where does a Car Clinic take place?
One might think that the most obvious place to run a Car Clinic is a car dealership. Not true: as we said, the car brand may not have to be recognizable and this makes it impossible to use the dealerships for the test. It is necessary to use specially designed spaces, such as outdoor areas of large hotels, or large rented spaces that reproduce a showroom and that can guarantee security and privacy. Here the car or its parts will be presented to the sample of respondents recruited, representative of potential buyers.