Building Cars is Product Management

You can’t assume that everyone is going to understand your message right away on the first try.

David Riddlebarger, Senior Product Manager at Honda R&D, shares the market research practices he deploys to develop new car concepts and how he presents data to key stakeholders.


Most product management practices in the automotive industry pre-date modern digital product management. In particular, the industry has a history of robust market research practices. However, like in most industries, forward-thinking product managers in the automotive industry are shifting to more agile practices.

David discusses how he and his team conduct “lower fidelity” research that answers their most pressing product questions, faster than robust market research studies. He says that while robust market research studies may provide a higher degree of confidence, they are more expensive and it takes longer to get results. Many product questions, however, can be – and often need to be – answered with user research techniques such as interviews, surveys, and usability testing.

Product managers need to find balance between and speed and confidence on ongoing basis. If you move too fast, you risk building something that no one wants. If you wait to make decisions until you have near certainty, your competition might pass you by. David describes how he strikes this balance and the techniques that he uses to discover what users really want.

David also shares how he presents research findings to key stakeholders. He says that storytelling is a critical skill for getting buy-in for big decisions. David recommends deciding what your key message is, finding the details that support that message, and cutting out the rest.

You’ll learn a lot from this episode about product management in the automotive industry, market research, and collaboration.

Here are the highlights:

David Riddlebarger

Senior Product Manager at Honda R&D

David’s Recommended Resources on Building Cars

What David is Reading and Listening To Right Now

David’s Favorite New Products Outside of Work

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