I ﬁrst saw this on Johnnie Moore’s Weblog, citing The Weekly Wire (which I must have missed last week), and confronted it again today via the ofﬁcial press release from Fiat. With 500 or so days to go till the launch of the new Fiat cinquecento, a retro-styled automobile designed to evoke memories of the 1950s Bambina, Fiat is inviting people to design the car online.
Well, not really. Fiat is inviting people to customize the 500 concept car that it showed earlier. Since the actual design of the basic car will have been frozen by now and in to tooling, that’s about the best it can do.
It’s not a bad effort, mind. It’s interactive enough and it’s clear that Fiat wants to repeat what BMW had achieved with its Mini: an indication of which accessories and colour schemes will be the most popular for the car. Most Mini buyers spend thousands customizing their cars with everything from chrome details to Union Jack roofs, such is the consumer desire for individuality, and a look at what Fiat is offering in its customization kit on the web follows the same theory: Italian ﬂags, Abarth stripes, and chrome hubcaps. You can get the car pretty thumping with the available bits and pieces. Viva la bambina!
Eventually, more companies will get to a point where customer input will be necessary far earlier, given how NPD is, well, developing. In 1996, I had a feedback form on our corporate web site asking for input into a new font family. And I actually developed new typefaces based on customer feedback—JY Décennie was designed from scratch because someone at a major newspaper sent through her wish list. It became project there as I liaised with her and it was a contender for its redesign.
It’s a further indication of the One concept espoused by Stefan Engeseth in his new book, and a continuation of the customer-centric trends that my Medinge colleagues and I have been writing about for years.
I shouldn’t be criticizing Fiat for claiming that customer input is “designing a car”. I should applaud it for attempting to unite with potential customers, and trying to ﬁnd a way out of its ﬁnancial difﬁculties. And for returning to doing what it does best: creating delightful small cars to mobilize the masses. A little 500 is just what the world needs right now as petrol prices continue rising, and customization will make every buyer feel special. The site is at www.ﬁat500.com—and personally I would like to see this car do well.
What a pity no one is doing something as innovative as the original Mini though, and the Loremo is still some way from production.
Del.icio.us tags: customization Fiat NPD Posted by Jack Yan, 09:55
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