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October 20, 2003
Is The Customer Always Right?
Please note that contributed articles, blog entries, and comments posted on MCADcafe.com are the views and opinion of the author and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of the management and staff of Internet Business Systems and its subsidiary web-sites.
Jeff Rowe - Managing Editor

by Jeff Rowe - Contributing Editor
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We've been led to believe that all product manufacturers live by the creed, "The customer is always right." I've wondered for some time, though, if that statement is just a figment of my imagination and a thing of the past for many types of products, but especially in the automotive sector. My sentiment was echoed and confirmed this week in a report on a survey conducted by the Automotive Practices Group of Cap Gemini Ernst & Young ( www.cgey.com), a large consulting, technology, and outsourcing services provider.

The fifth annual study revealed that consumers are not getting everything they want from automotive dealers and vehicle manufacturers. Across the vehicle lifecycle, consumers demonstrate needs, wants and preferences that the industry does not appear to be aware of. As a result, automotive companies are missing important opportunities to unlock hidden value.

The study, which surveyed consumers, dealers and manufacturers in Canada, United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Sweden and Italy, compares consumers' actual needs, demands, and preferences with dealers' and vehicle manufacturers' perceptions. The report focuses on topics such as consumer behavior, data capture/demand sensing, the Internet, and the aftersales experience.

"Cars Online 2003 makes it clear that the automotive industry must gain a better understanding of how consumers shop for vehicles and what factors lead them to buy," said Michael Wujciak, Vice President and leader of Cap Gemini Ernst & Young's Global Automotive Practice. "Gaining this understanding is absolutely vital to unlocking hidden value and improving performance throughout the industry, particularly in today's challenging environment. At a time when the industry faces generally stagnant sales, eroding margins, oversupply of vehicles, and heightened competition, this study provides valuable insight into the factors that drive automotive buying behavior and impact consumers' relationships with vehicle manufacturers and dealers."

The Cars Online 2003 study revealed a number of key findings, including: The Ernst & Young study was telling in many respects but really drives the point home that automotive manufacturers are not listening enough to what their customers truly need and want. Instead, they try and force what they think the customer wants. And although the automotive industry was singled out for this study, it is hardly alone in the way it treats its customers. Unfortunately, this behavior is pervasive in many other product market segments, as well. Because of what I perceive as an increasing disregard by many manufacturers for what people really want in the products they produce, I'm beginning to wonder if the customer is ever right anymore.

--Jeffrey Rowe is Editor and Publisher of MCADCafé and MCADWeekly Review. He can be reached at Email Contact.

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-- Jeff Rowe, MCADCafe.com Contributing Editor.