Automotive market research

Across the top 54 markets worldwide, 86 million cars were sold in 2018, The world’s leading car manufacturers by volume are currently the Volkswagen Group, Toyota, Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi, General Motors and Fiat-Chrysler-PSA which collectively account for around half of all new cars sold.

The major issue facing the industry today is how to transition from more than a century of producing cars powered by internal combustion engines to a future where all cars and vans are expected to use electric or hydrogen propulsion. Supported by government policies encouraging motorists to switch to electric vehicles (EVs), worldwide EV production is expected to increase from 3.3 million units in 2019 to 27 million units by 2030. From a market research perspective, automotive clients account for around 4% of global expenditure.

In the UK, the automotive industry contributed GBP18.6 billion to the national economy in 2018, and because 8 out of 10 UK-manufactured cars are exported, the industry accounts for 14.4% of the total UK exports by value. With 186,000 people directly employed – and 856,000 indirectly employed – the UK automotive industry contributes significantly to the health of the UK economy. In February 2020 the UK Government announced a consultation which might see a ban on sales of new petrol, diesel and hybrid cars brought forward from 2040 to 2035 as part of efforts to de-carbonise the economy. Since the average age at which cars are scrapped in the UK is around 14 year, such a move would start to impact on the used car market almost immediately.

In the automotive sector, FieldworkHub has supported B2B and B2C projects on electric vehicles, used cars, lubricants and engine conditioners, and paint finishing products.

For companies based in the USA and other English-speaking countries, the UK is a natural starting point for a European market research programme. FieldworkHub’s home city of London is by far the largest centre for market research but we have also run focus groups and other types of research in Birmingham, Bristol, Edinburgh, Manchester and Newcastle.


Close up up row of colourful new cars for sale

Face-to-face IDIs in the UK about used car buying and UX testing

An innovation and incubation company had previously launched an online marketplace for quality used cars in Germany, in conjunction with two leading automotive manufacturers. Having established a successful business model, the company and its partners wanted to expand to the UK. There are a number of important differences between the UK and German markets, in terms of both market structure and consumer behaviour, hence it was important to carry out pre- and post-launch market research. We supported the UK launch team over an 18-month period by recruiting a mix of over 40 used car buyers, independent dealers and franchised dealers to take part in face-to-face in-depth interviews in our client’s central London offices about user car buying and to carry out user experience (UX) testing on prototype versions of the website.

Young male paint finisher in overalls working on a red car door. The rest of the car is visible in the background.

Tele-depth Interviews (TDIs) with professional paint sprayers in the UK and Ireland

We were asked to recruit a small number of professional paint sprayers and paint finishers working in the automotive and maritime industries in the UK and Ireland for 60-minute tele-depth interviews (TDIs) for a project on paint finishing systems. The participants needed to be personally involved in painting and paint finishing operations and be responsible for, or influence, the choice of products used in their paint shop. They also needed to be familiar with the end client’s brands in this market, even if they were not current users. We recruited the full quota of respondents in both countries and our client was pleased with the insights that the respondents provided.

Happy young Asian man sitting in the car he has just bought and holding the key up

Multimodal research on used car purchasing habits in the UK

A well established online car dealership wanted to carry out research into car purchasing behaviours. The research consisted of a quantitative and qualitative phase. For the quantitative aspect of the research, our work involved programming a survey which we then distributed to over 2500 participants who fit our clients quota. The second phase involved a mix of face-to-face and online interviews with a select number of those who had completed the survey. The choice of mixing the methods of interviews was to ensure that we could deliver on the clients need of completing a certain amount of interviews while taking time and geographical constraints into consideration. This enabled our client to complete all of the interviews that they had hoped to conduct.