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Manufacturers Mine for Vehicle Defects Online

November 8, 2012

BLACKSBURG, Va. — Social media comments could help auto manufacturers identify vehicle safety and performance defects, according to Virginia Tech’s Pamplin College of Business’ case study. The large-scale case study points to evidence that social media can greatly assist with vehicle quality management.

“A lot of useful but hidden data on vehicle quality is embedded in social media that is largely untapped by auto manufacturers,” said Alan Abrahams, assistant professor of business information technology, who led the study together with Weiguo Fan, professor of accounting and information systems.

Car buyers look to social media for vehicle surveys, insurance industry statistics, manufacturer websites, complaints on auto brands, and facts on automobile safety and reliability, Abrahams said.

Abrahams and Fan’s research showed that the existence of safety and performance defects is strongly predicted by the incidence of automotive marker words, or “smoke words” such as “skid and “crash,” he said. Therefore, auto manufacturers can scan social media forums for vehicle defects by using an automotive smoke word list along with web crawlers and other tools.

“Vehicle quality management professionals would greatly benefit in terms of productivity by employing a vehicle defect discovery system like ours to sift defects from unrelated postings,” he said.

With their social media strategies, Abrahams said the researchers plan to determine whether new text mining techniques can be developed to enhance the defect detection and sorting process.

They would like to expand their analysis of postings to study Twitter and Facebook posts, additional linguistic features of text, and other vehicle brands. “We’ve just touched the tip of the iceberg in Social CRM,” says Fan. “Our method is very generic and can be extended easily to other areas. We look forward to working with other consumer brands and products for total quality management.”

Nouns

Safety Critical

Non-Critical

Defect

Non-Defect

ABS [brake]

fan

resistor

choke

flasher

starter

actuator

flywheel

seatbelt

oxygen

bulletin

holder

gearbox

thermostat

wiper

paint

airbag

antenna

warranty

stereo

 

Adjectives and Adverbs

Safety Critical

Non-Critical

Defect

Non-Defect

dangerous

wet

intermittent

average

explosive

spare

difficult

bigger

vulnerable

warm

slight

perfect

unsafe

alright

frequent, persistent, often

incorrect

ineffective

horrible

serious

older

 

Verbs

Safety Critical

Non-Critical

Defect

Non-Defect

retract

knock

overheat

float

deploy

rattle

flicker

exit

bleed

freeze

vibrate

compress

surge

fall

echo

boost

die

wobble

squeak

paint

 

Above are examples of automotive smoke words, which can be categorized as nouns, verbs, and adjectives and adverbs. Smoke words with high relative prevalence in safety defects or regular defects are shown in italics.

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