Fueling Auto R&D With
Social media has ‘widened the aperature’ for automakers
to view consumers’ insights and product ideas. Q BY JOSH CABLE
When Kia Motors Corp. be- gins building the 2012 Optima this month at its West Point, Ga., plant, the
automaker will incorporate redesigned—
and cushier—seats into the midsize sedan,
merely a year after Kia launched an all-new
version of the Optima in the United States.
While improved lumbar support lacks
the sex appeal of spoilers, alloy wheels or
—let’s be honest—the 274-horsepower tur-bocharged engine in the Optima SX, the
Optima’s redesigned seats nonetheless represent a major shift in automotive R&D.
The South Korea-based automaker
decided to modify the seat design after
noticing a groundswell of complaints from
consumers and automotive writers percolating on the Internet.
Kia, which uses business-intelligence soft-
ware to monitor online comments about its
vehicles, saw the Internet chatter about seat
comfort and determined that it was “a big-
ger issue than we had anticipated,” explains
Kia’s Michael Sprague.