Automakers around the world monitor social media to steer their research-and-development divisions. Kia revamped its car seats after consumers griped on social networks, and Ford got thousands of product ideas -- including dog-friendly SUVs and flood-proof floating cars -- from a social-innovation website. "We believe that listening to the customers online is a tremendous opportunity to better shape our future product and company strategy," says Scott Kelly, digital marketing manager at Ford.

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