Market researcher defends his craft

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Automotive News

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To the Editor:

Your Oct. 29 issue carried some very interesting letters to the editor about the challenges facing Robert Lutz at General Motors.

Having grown up in Detroit in the 1950s, I share the enthusiasm about cars and the state of the industry with Tom Morton and Len Dunlop, the writers of those letters.

As a marketing researcher who over the last 20 years has worked with the auto industry and other businesses, I have witnessed the many changes in the industry.

I must take issue, however, with Lutz's criticism of focus groups (in his book). It is not necessarily the use of focus groups that contributes to poor information for management; it is more likely the misuse of that valid research technique.

The purpose of qualitative research techniques (including focus groups) should be to provide directional information to the user of the research. Good marketing research should provide information upon which to base informed management decisions; it is not a way to relieve management of its decision-making responsibilities.

I agree with Morton and Lutz that the misuse of focus groups (as well as other information) has probably contributed to some very questionable management decisions within the auto industry over the years.

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