2010 Honda ElementEnlarge Photo
Here at TCC, we don't put much faith in astrology, phrenology, or any other system that assigns personality traits based on birthdays, hat sizes, or anything else that hasn't been chosen. Instead, we prefer data that stems from personal preferences: what does your favorite color, website, or rock band say about you? The New Vehicle Experience Study recently released by Strategic Vision applies that sort of analysis to car purchases, and the result are fairly interesting.
For example, the study found that Honda owners are, on the whole, practical and well-educated: about 70% hold college degrees, whereas only 35% of Chevy owners and 45% of Ford owners can say the same. On what may be a related note, 13% of Chevy owners and 12% of Ford owners don't use the internet, compared to just 3% of Honda drivers.
(Sadly, not all of Strategic Vision's revelations are that intriguing. We didn't really need a well-financed study to tell us that Bentley owners are rich, with at least $5 million in the bank. Really? Rolls-Royce owners, too? We're floored.)
Research like this provides a great deal of useful information to automakers -- information they can use to develop new vehicles, enhance brand recognition, and grow market share. For example, to lure more well-educated, internet-savvy folks into its showrooms, Ford developed the popular Ford Sync system, which allows owners to stream music from a Bluetooth-enabled device like the iPhone through the car's audio system. That's a great match for the demographic Ford wants -- assuming the technology works.
Of course, no matter how accurate such data may be, automakers have to be very careful in using it to create and implement marketing strategies. A cautionary example might be Honda, which likely shifted much of its marketing to the web because of data just like this. In and of itself, that's not a bad thing, but given Honda fans' familiarity with internet communications, launching an aesthetically questionable product online may not have been in the company's best interest. The medium -- specifically Facebook and Twitter -- magnified consumer's reaction to the 2010 Honda Accord Crosstour, causing much more negative buzz than it might've otherwise. Hopefully Honda has learned that although its customers may value function over form, they're still not willing to drive something that's flat-out ugly.