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Database: Students are instructed to download the data set for this case from the website or to request them from their instructor.

Objectives: To encourage students to think about sampling issues as well as ethical issues.

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Summary: TABH consulting specializes in research for automobile dealers in the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Europe. While most of their research is custom, they also produce a monthly “white paper” that is sold via their Web site. This off-the-shelf research is purchased by other research firms and by companies within the auto industry. This month, the research is analyzing the viability of college students attending schools located in small college towns as a potentially underserved market segment.

Michel Gonzalez, a junior analyst assigned to this project, contacts the traffic departments at Cal Poly University and at Central Missouri State University (Note: this university is now named University of Central Missouri) to obtain data from the students’ automobile parking registration records. Both schools are willing to provide anonymous data records for a limited number of students, and Cal Poly allowed Michel a chance to visit during the registration period. This allowed Michel to intercept students near the registration window in exchange for Michel purchasing a booth at the school’s career fair. The information results in a small data set consisting of observations from 100 undergraduate college students in Pomona, California. The data collected includes sex, color of car, major, grade, whether a student’s car is financed, whether the student lives on campus or commutes, and a cartoon about the type of car they would like to purchase.

The purpose of the white paper is to offer car dealers considering new locations a comparison of the profile of a small town university with the primary market segments for their particular automobile. TABH wants to appeal to companies with high sales growth in the U.S. (i.e., Kia and Hyundai), and potentially European auto dealerships currently without significant U.S. distribution (i.e., Smart). TABH also hopes the white paper may eventually lead to a customized project for one of these companies.

The general research question is: What are the automobile market segment characteristics of students attending U.S. universities in small towns?


1.   What types of tests can be performed using the data that may at least indirectly address the primary research question?

2.   What do you think the primary conclusions of the white paper will be based on the data provided?

3.   Assuming a small college town lacked an auto dealership (beyond Ford, GM, and Chrysler), what two companies should be most interested in this type of location? Use the Internet if necessary to perform some cursory research on different car companies.

4.   What are the weaknesses in basing decisions on this type of research?

5.   Are there key issues that may diminish the usefulness of this research?

6.   What kinds of themes might emerge from the cartoon drawings?

7.   Are there any ethical dilemmas presented in this case?

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