Design Thinking in Automotive: Enhancing User Experience


Amid the digital transformation of industries worldwide, the automotive sector faces a unique challenge: how to combine the tangible, raw appeal of vehicles with the rising demand for digital experiences. Enter Design Thinking – a methodology that sits at the intersection of functionality and human-centric design. In this era of rapid change, professionals have harnessed design thinking to craft user experiences that resonate deeply with customers.

When it comes to understanding how design thinking is steering the automotive industry towards a brighter, user-centric future, it’s key to consult industry experts. Vijeta Aluru oversees the multi-million dollar rewards and loyalty program at a major auto company, and has spent over a decade at the forefront of technological breakthroughs in the automotive industry. And she says that design thinking is the wave of the future.

What is Design Thinking?

At its core, design thinking is an iterative process centered around understanding the user, challenging assumptions, and redefining problems to identify alternative strategies and solutions. Unlike traditional processes that focus on the end product, design thinking revolves around the user’s needs. “This approach goes beyond creating a car or even launching a digital platform,” Vijeta explains. “The idea is to craft experiences that resonate with the user’s emotions and needs.”

Why is Design Thinking Relevant to the Automotive Industry?

Today’s automotive industry deals with more than horsepower, mileage, or aesthetics. The goal is connectivity, sustainability, and personalization. With emerging technologies such as autonomous driving, connected car ecosystems, and EV innovations, there’s a need to re-imagine the user’s journey. 

Design thinking provides a framework to empathize with users, define their needs, ideate solutions, prototype, and test. It offers automotive designers and engineers a fresh lens to view challenges, ensuring the end product is both functional and also deeply resonant with user desires.

Vijeta Aluru’s Approach: Design Thinking in Action

“As the industry races ahead, fueled by technological advancements, the age-old principle remains—the customer is king. Engaging them, valuing them, and earning their loyalty will be the keys to success.” – Vijeta Aluru, Science Times

Drawing from her extensive experience, Vijeta shares a few instances where design thinking made a tangible difference:

  • Loyalty Programs: When crafting loyalty programs for the automotive sector, Vijeta’s team used design thinking to delve into the customer’s journey. They mapped out touchpoints, identified pain points, and crafted solutions that were not just about earning points, but about building lasting relationships. “While many loyalty programs are merely transactional, we wanted ours to offer unforgettable experiences, like off-roading experiences and vehicle subscriptions,” she shares.
  • Digital Interfaces: Recognizing the rise of in-car infotainment and digital interfaces, Vijeta’s team employed design thinking to ensure these platforms were intuitive. “Any time we looked at adding features, we asked ourselves why,” she says. “We wanted to understand the user’s needs, and then iterate designs until they felt seamless.”

Actionable Insights for Integrating Design Thinking

For businesses keen on integrating design thinking, here are some insights inspired by Vijeta’s journey:

  • Empathy is Key: Start by understanding your user’s journey. Map out their interactions with your product/service and identify areas of friction. Empathy maps can be a useful tool at this stage.
  • Ideate Broadly: Encourage brainstorming sessions where no idea is considered too wild. Often, the most out-of-the-box solutions come from such unfettered ideation.
  • Prototype Rapidly: Build mock-ups of your solutions. These don’t need to be highly detailed – even paper sketches can serve the purpose in the initial stages.
  • Test & Iterate: Once you have a prototype, test it with real users. Gather feedback, identify areas of improvement, and refine your solution.

The Road Ahead

Design thinking is an advanced methodology that has evolved into a mindset. As the automotive industry continues to change, companies need to adopt a flexible, user-centric approach to remain relevant. The future belongs to those who, like Vijeta, understand that at the heart of every product or service lies the user. And in meeting their needs, both functionally and emotionally, lies true innovation.

The automotive industry stands on the brink of a revolution. Beyond the roar of engines, the gleam of chrome, and the allure of speed, there’s a deep-seated need to connect with users on a more profound level. Design thinking, with its emphasis on empathy, iteration, and user-centricity, offers the perfect roadmap. 

“Each touchpoint in the customer’s journey—from discovery to post-purchase support—is an opportunity.” – Vijeta Aluru, University Herald

Adopting this approach, businesses can produce vehicles designed with the driver in mind; and they can craft holistic experiences that drive loyalty, satisfaction, and success. As champions like Vijeta Aluru have showcased, the path to automotive excellence is paved with design thinking principles. It’s time for the industry to take the wheel and steer towards a more empathetic, innovative future.

About Vijeta Aluru

Vijeta Aluru, with over a decade of industry experience, is a distinguished figure in the automotive rewards domain. Currently serving as a Product Owner at a major motor company, she oversees its rewards program, which has exponentially grown, rewarding customers for their engagements ranging from vehicle purchases to accessory acquisitions. A key influencer behind the scenes, Vijeta has masterminded backend services supporting brand sites across various markets, honed end-to-end business processes, and adeptly managed post-launch operations. Drawing from her extensive background in launching consumer-centric products in high-growth settings, she embodies a blend of strategic foresight and technical proficiency. Deeply attuned to customer needs, she utilizes design thinking principles to cultivate revolutionary user experiences in the industry.

Learn more: