Car design by Facebook

STEVE COLQUHOUN
Last updated 08:04 17/07/2012
Nissan 370Z.

WEB DESIGN: Nissan invites fans to plan future models.

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Designing a car by committee can lead to unfortunate results but that won't stop Nissan from asking its nearly two million social media followers for help with future product planning.

Autonews.com reports that Nissan wants to use social media apps such as Facebook and Pinterest to canvas opinion on its future plans.

Nissan's director of interactive and social media marketing, Erich Marx, told the website that Nissan's nearly one million Facebook followers and a similar number on Google+ and Twitter could be asked to form instant focus groups to which it could ask specific questions of interest.

"We want to take our social media engagement to the next level," Marx told Autonews. "We have all these people following us who are obviously interested in what we're doing and where we're going. The next level in that relationship will be to get their input on where we should go."

The company first turned to Facebook in February this year, when it asked fans to work on a special performance version of the 370Z sports car. Fans were asked to submit ideas on what they would want in a special edition, from engine performance to suspension tuning.

Nissan plans to kick off the next phase of the strategy by asking followers what vehicle and technology choices they expect to see in the next 10 years.

Seeking public opinion is nothing new to car makers, which regularly test their designs and future concepts – albeit usually in carefully selected, tightly controlled and highly confidential focus groups.

There's no suggestion from Nissan that it will share future model plans with its followers, however, although some of the more left-field ideas discussed via social media are sure to generate discussion behind closed doors and could even drive future developments.

Ford has chosen a different way to brainstorm its future technologies, opening a branch office in the US's technology hotspot Silicon Valley and calling for tech-savvy developers to submit ideas for "apps" that the carmaker could use to increase the connectivity and convenience of its future customers.

Holden's social media and digital communications manager, Andrea Matthews, says the company pays close attention to its 314,000 Facebook and 5000 Twitter followers.

It isn't ready yet to employ social media as a product planning tool but "it is something we'd take a look at".

"We have a lot of fans who are really connected with the brand, some from a heritage standpoint as fans of previous generations, and others who are about to buy a car and really interested in what we're doing now," she says.

Matthews says the company runs a blog site on which it recently posted a media-generated image of a design for the rumoured next-generation Torana. It received thousands of responses – both positive and negative. "We were able to look at that and feed that back into the business," she says.

"It's a great way of getting feedback. We still have our formal practices in the way we clinic our products, but this presents us with a really valuable way to get rapid turnaround."

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- Sydney Morning Herald

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