Thursday, December 20, 2007

Car Brainstorming - Thinking Outside the Dealership

Thinking up an exciting new car is something that might seem easy and exciting to most car lovers.....

But have you ever gone through the thought experiment of choosing what vehicle you would ask for if you could have ANYthing you wanted made for you at a reasonable price?

We find that when we challenge people to answer this question, that they typically have a difficult time thinking outside the lineup of cars that are currently available.

Pick a price point and people say: I want a Mini. I want a BMW M3. I want a Toyota Land Cruiser. Rarely do people say, I want a 6 seat, performance sedan, with a transverse-mounted engine, all-wheel drive, 40mpg fuel efficiency, and amazing looks that make everyone want one, but low enough volume that only a select few actually have them on the road. These types of descriptors are not concrete enough, instead people's vocabulary is fixed in the lexicon of cars that are currently available even if they fall short in many features that they might want. I want an Escalade, a Touareg, a Mercedes S-class, da-da, da-da, da-da.

And if this difficulty is evident when the constraints of engineering are not applied. Just imagine how much less likely people are to think up new vehicles when they are asked to imagine a vehicle they would like to have if the engineering required sharing certain platforms in order to be more financially viable.

Our team of engineers and designers is no different in being susceptible to this habit. At first, I wondered whether we would ever be able to break free of the "current car" trap. But over the last week, we have had a breakthrough round of cross-functional meetings about our prototyping effort, and I am amazed at the team's unique approaches and fresh ideas. We have to use specific thought experiments to allow ourselves to "think outside the dealership", but we are having success.

In addition to dreaming up new models, we have made an equally strong effort to redefine the product "offering" in general.

To be successful in this RE-definition, you have to be willing to believe that there is more to the "willingness to pay" for a car than that which is represented by the car itself. Said differently, thinking "differently" means that you are willing to ascribe a certain amount of value to the parts of the purchase outside of the four wheels and tires - i.e. the purchase experience, the service experience, the ownership experience, etc. Folks like Mika Toyota of Rhode Island (Toyota of Newport) and the Sewell family of Dealerships in Dallas have known this for a while, but how much further could someone go if such thinking was brand-wide!

These are the brainstorming challenges that we are up against, and we are loving every minute of it. Don't worry though... we are not going to make any major decisions without you. We are not! We treasure the input from our community of fans and future customers, and we look forward to your participation... we only ask that you put your thinking caps on and think outside the dealersip!


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