Bentley goes hi-tech to probe customers' deepest desires

Probably the most tedious part of any new prestige car purchase involves poring over colour and trim charts.

Does the walnut trim go with cream leather? Carbon fibre-look fascia or brushed alloy? Contrasting stitching in the leather seats or matching? And exactly what duco shade will match my partner's eyes?

Bentley buyers no longer have to rely on their own conscious wits when it comes to choosing finishes for their next car.

What do you really, really want?

Upon entering a Bentley dealership, they can choose to have their preferences electronically plumbed to ensure they're getting the car they desire at a subconscious level.

A new initiative being rolled out globally by Bentley uses a large screen to flash a variety of images in pairs to customers, who choose the one they prefer via a touchscreen.

The abstract images include mountain scenes, beach landscapes, architectural styles, clothing, animals, sports and even machined metal surfaces.

The computer then assesses those choices and plots them on a graph that also takes into account the strength of each choice based on the customer's response time. A shorter response time suggests a stronger impulse.

A starting point

The graph can then be used by dealership staff as a starting point for suggesting the paint, hides and trim surfaces of the customer's next Bentley.

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Bentley's Asia-Pacific marketing manager Robin Peel says the aim is to identify basic customer preferences and add an even more personal touch to the way customers buy their Bentley.

The customer's electronically-chosen preferences have in some cases been reflected in the car that is eventually ordered, but Peel says that in other cases, the final specification of the car has been completely at odds with the psycho-analysis session suggests.

He also admits it's possible that a customer who has just had a stockmarket win and arrived directly from a relaxing lunch with friends would choose different images to a person who had just been stuck in traffic for three hours.

If it all sounds a bit far-fetched, don't be fooled: Bentley is also investigating incorporating facial recognition software into its dealership studios to further interpret the customer's inner responses.

Let the probing for your innermost desires begin.

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