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June 18, 2003
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Johnson Controls Conducts Consumer Study In SUV Segment

Spotlight On The Driver

Burscheid, Germany - Product solutions for the automotive interior must not only fulfill automakers' requirements, but must also dovetail with consumers' needs and desires. That's why Johnson Controls, one of the world's leading suppliers of automotive interior systems, regularly conducts consumer research in which drivers are given the opportunity to evaluate vehicle interiors. The Consumer Research Department recently invited about 100 test persons to participate in just such a Car Interior Clinic at an independent test studio in Monheim, Germany. The study featured three models in the SUV (Sport Utility Vehicle) segment: the BMW X5, VW Touareg and Volvo XC90.

Just a month ago, the company carried out a similar consumer study of vehicles in the lower-midsize segment, in cooperation with the independent market research institute, GfK (Gesellschaft für Konsumforschung), based in Nuremberg. This time, the weeklong Car Interior Clinic will spotlight the SUV segment.


Car Interior Clinic as consumer research tool

At a Car Interior Clinic, half of the respondents quantitatively evaluate the interiors of the vehicles on display in Monheim. They do this with the aid of a detailed questionnaire and rating system. The respondents in the second group are interviewed on the pros and cons of each vehicle interior by a trained psychologist applying the methods of depth psychology. This procedure forms the qualitative component of the Car Interior Clinic. During such clinics the respondents do not test drive the vehicles. "The car's body and handling while driving are not decisive aspects for us. We are much more interested in the driver's perception of the car's interior", says Silke Jagla, Consumer Research Manager at Johnson Controls. The interviewers ask the respondents for their overall impression of the vehicle interior, but also pose specific questions about individual components, for example whether seat adjustment is user-friendly or the cockpit controls are within easy reach.

Strict criteria for choice of interview partners

The market research institute recruits respondents either per telephone or direct approach - at a supermarket parking lot for example. Interview partners are chosen for the study based on strict criteria: The person must own and drive a model belonging to the segment under examination and must have purchased the car new no more than four years ago. "The respondent should be the person who made the decision to buy the car", explains Silke Jagla. People who work in the automotive industry, in marketing or in the media are disqualified from participating in the interviews, as their responses could skew the results.

Consumer research from day one

For Johnson Controls, it is crucial that consumer research accompany the entire product development cycle. Directly following the market observation that ushers in every new concept, the consumer research department steps in to actively sound out the wishes and visions of consumers in the relevant target groups. This enables Johnson Controls to carefully tailor its products to the exact needs and desires of the consumer. The company's designers, engineers and marketing specialists use the results of the Car Interior Clinic in both product development and marketing. "With the help of market research, we are able to identify current opinions and trends within specific segments of the automobile market at an early stage, reflect these in the products we develop, and thus offer automakers valuable support in their decision-making process", says Silke Jagla.

(June 12, 2003)

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