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Theory, Analysis and Reviews on UX User Experience Research and Design

How the SUV User Experience Trashed Detroit

What do the SUV and the iPhone have in common?

Here is an interesting question: what was the single most profitable factory in the history of modern mass production? Would you be surprised to know that it was an outdated Ford Truck Plant in Wayne Michigan?  Malcolm Gladwell, in the New Yorker said, “In 1998, the Michigan Truck Plant grossed eleven billion dollars, almost as much as McDonald’s made that year. Profits were $3.7 billion. Some factory workers, with overtime, were making two hundred thousand dollars a year.” How is this possible given the vast efficiency of the world’s production facilities ranging from Berlin to Bangkok? It was possible because what was produced there was a product so outdated and low cost yet so overpriced and in such demand that it drove the entire American automobile industry to staggering levels of profitability. Starting in 1996, the Wayne Michigan Truck Plant produced the Ford Expedition SUV…the vehicle that some have said started it all…the SUV generation. As it turns out on July 22nd, 2008 Ford announced that it was converting the Wayne Truck Plant to production of the Ford Focus, a sub-compact design. When the last Expedition rolled off the assembly line, so went the SUV, and for the most part the American automobile industry. Here is our take on what went wrong and why, surprisingly, the SUV is important to corporations large and small that are focused on developing powerful and robust user experiences.

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