Does your race determine the kind of car you buy?

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Does your race determine the kind of car you buy?

Does your race determine the kind of car you buy?

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In a rather bizarre study released today Strategic Vision claims that minorities (full results for Caucasians were not released) have a 'vehicle DNA' that is composed of a 'driver's desires, needs and attribute priorities.' Why they decided to phrase 'vehicle preference' in such a Social Darwinian manner as 'vehicle DNA' remains unclear. As do the survey results if you read them in their entirety. Full dissection after the jump.

We'll start with the study's results so we know what we're dealing with. Claiming to be the bible for car makers to design and market cars to minorities - specifically, African-Americans, Hispanics and Asians - the Strategic Vision survey rates the 'emotional response' and 'desires' each group has for various vehicular attributes such as 'Cute,' 'Aggressive,' 'Classy' or 'Bold.' Strategic Vision claims that African-American buyers prefer cars that are 'Classy' and 'Powerful' while Hispanics prefer 'Aggressive' and 'Powerful,' but also 'Confident' and 'Protective.' Asian buyers, on the other hand, are looking for cars that offer the "'complete' package,' being 'Pleasant' yet 'Powerful' and also 'Easy Going' and 'Protective.' How they arrive at these results is unclear - they make little mention of their methodology and none of their sample size. But more on that later. Now for the dissection.

First, the study groups two racial groups with an ethnic group. Hispanics include members of nearly every racial group - it's a cultural reference to a person born in or descended from a Spanish-speaking country - including Spain itself. Likewise, the term 'Latino' is a geographic identifier, not a racial group. Persons of all races are born and raised in Latin America, and speak a multitude of languages from Spanish to Brazilian Portuguese to the many dialects of pre-Colombian languages. The Strategic Survey uses the terms 'Hispanic' and 'Latino' interchangeably and apparently without consideration for the differences the group to which they are referring bears in relation to the other two groups. This is a major confounding variable in the study and should be accounted for - but is not, or at least is not discussed in the released results.

The 'TQI' or Total Quality Index purports to 'capture the more complete experience buyers have with his or her (sic) vehicle including rational and emotional connection.' This sort of 'statistic' is ripe for criticism - just read the description - with so much room for redefinition and arbitrary assignment of values that it is essentially meaningless. But upon reading the results for the TQI it appears even more obvious that the differences measured are below the acceptable margin of error even for a highly accurate scientific (i.e. not humanities) study. Margins of error between 0.001 and 0.05 are generally considered to mean a study's results are determinate, and in the humanities and social sciences (where this survey would fall) margins of error up to 0.20 would be acceptable to show a trend for further investigation.

The Strategic Vision survey finds that differences as little as one point in a scale of 1,000 (0.001) predicts vehicular preference (the Chrysler 300C scoring just one point higher than Mercedes' ill-fated R-Class wagon) - but nonetheless fails to stick with its own most-predicted vehicle. For example, the survey repeatedly points to the Chrysler 300C as a 'vehicle of choice' for African-Americans, but neglects to mention that the Infinity FX rates 11 points higher on its own TQI index or that more African-American buyers purchased Nissans and Toyotas than all GM and Chrysler vehicles combined.

In fact the Chrysler 300 ranks sixth on the list of models purchased by African-Americans by the survey's own data - the Nissan Altima, Toyota Corolla, Nissan Sentra, Ford F-150 and Toyota Camry all beating out the 300 for the top five spots. While the Ford F-150 could be called both 'Classy' and 'Powerful' in terms of its looks - by some, anyway - the remainder of the top five cars would be hard-pressed to match up with even one of those descriptors, much less both. But for some reason (again undisclosed) Strategic Vision decided to place the Chrysler 300 as the paradigmatic African-American car.

The so-called 'index' scores in the third column of the survey results indicate the percentage of buyers in the racial or ethnic group surveyed in relation to the general population, i.e. Nissan's index of 201 for African-Americans indicates that roughly twice as many African-Americans buy Nissan compared to the general population. Chrysler does score high in the index, but so does Kia and Mercedes - neither of which are even mentioned in the text of the survey results.

A trip to Strategic Visions homepage shows that the 'method' used is presented in a number of colorful graphs, but little in the way of actual information is supplied. For instance what makes the 'tree' of human emotional needs more accurate or representative than Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs to which the tree bears significant resemblance (and which is much more widely accepted in the social sciences)? And a close reading of the final paragraph shows that their 'quantum' scale is an ordinal scale (like a Likert scale) that is subject to all the imprecision and criticism that comes with it. But even beyond the application (or at least disclosure) of proper statistical methodology (they keep much secret because of the commercial nature of their organization), the interpretation of those results is questionable at best and clearly inaccurate at worst.

The bottom line is that using unstated methods and absurdly precise indexes to measure things as vague as 'emotions' and 'desires' is a recipe for statistical disaster, and Strategic Vision's latest survey doesn't disappoint. If you're in the market for truisms ('if you understand customer values and provide a vehicle that delivers the right product and message, you will sell more vehicles') but aren't concerned with actually knowing any customer values or determining what the right product or message might be, read the survey below as gospel. Otherwise, move on. Nothing to see here folks. Just a statistical train wreck.

[Strategic Vision | Via: MotiveMag]
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