Monthly Archives: October 2013

Consumer Resistance to Superior Technology: General Motors Hybrids, Siri and Video Messaging, Why are We So Slow to Adopt?

Todd Benschneider

University of South Florida
Revised 4/23/2018

When I first wrote the foundation for this article on “Consumer Resistance to General Motors Hybrid Vehicles” nearly six years ago, I was hoping to make sense of the unexpected marketing challenges that we uncovered when Americans proved surprisingly reluctant to purchase the General Motors electric and hybrid option vehicles in 2012.

The market timing of 2009-2012 seemed ideal for electric automobile technology, with record high fuel prices, deeper understandings of global warming and the inevitable decline of petroleum production in the coming century.

On the surface, it seemed to be a reasonable assumption in 2012, that industry projections for alternate fuel vehicles would become a reality and “most cars of  the future” (by 2020 was the expectation) would employ some form of electric or hybrid powertrain.

It is ironic how eight years into the future seemed limitless in its potential; but, eight years ago, feels like it was just yesterday.

How could anyone not want inexpensive clean energy cars; especially, ones that cost less than a dinosaur powered vehicle?

Few people would even argue that oil reserves could possibly sustain our current demand for gasoline for future generations.

The proposed electric car technology was reliable, those powertrains had proven their reliability for a decade of testing.

The price was certainly right, General Motors hybrid options for Buick Lacrosse and Chevrolet Malibu were priced the same as the gas versions and, as bonus, the hybrids were even more powerful and provided income tax credits.

How could that not sell like a syrup covered hot cake????

I still shake my head in amazement at how difficult it was to get rid of the hybrids we ordered in 2011 at our Buick-GMC store. Several sales managers would have probably been fired if our veteran inventory manager Sandy had not pushed back and insisted that we limit our initial order to six units rather than the twenty that I thought was a very modest forecast …. this was not her first rodeo.

Sandy probably saved my job and managed to dealer trade most of those six aged units from our inventory and I for one, learned a valuable lesson in product development: think twice before building a superior solution for customers who do not see a problem worth solving.

Since that realization I, like many in the industry, have concluded that unless government intervention mandates the phase out of petroleum powertrains, the adoption rate of electric-powered vehicles could take another two decades. Looking ahead now from 2018, I have adjusted my expectations down a few notches from back in 2012; now, I suspect that relying on the market demand alone to bring electric powertrains to full-scale adoption would be overly optimistic.

I find myself taunting the overzealous Tesla enthusiasts with history trivia that the automaker Detroit Electric nearly overtook gas automobiles in the early 1900s, selling over 13,000 electric cars that had top speed of 20 mph and a recharge range of 80 miles. A current Tesla 3 base model is rated for 220 miles of recharge range and with modern production capability has only recently surpassed 200,000 units sold. That seems like a miniscule amount of progress made across the 100 years of technology that evolved between the two.

It also seems unlikely that government intervention will mandate the phase-out of the internal combustion engine. Some assumptions could be made regarding the far-reaching economic disruptions to foreign trade markets, devastation to the economies of export countries, displaced petroleum workers, and the reallocation of every dollar generated throughout the gasoline supply chain, not to mention the economic impact to the plastics and chemical industries which rely on the waste byproducts of oil for cheap fundamental ingredients.

So, despite being a GM guy whose career was built on gas engine emissions and combustion technology, I must admit that I had been rooting for Elon Musk’s solar-powered auto revolution.  Mostly because, I hoped to avoid becoming one of those cynical old guys who fights progress, for no reason other than, maintaining a comfortable status-quo.

I am still optimistic that electric powertrains will become mainstream and that automobiles will convert to solar charged electricity before the rest of the power grid. However, I am imagining that the solar revolution will plod forward slowly for decades in a long-drawn-out guerilla war due to the lack of strong market pull for those alternative fuel vehicles while the petroleum industry survives long enough to support the codependent  plastics industry until renewable sourced manufacturing ingredients are developed.

Hopefully Tesla investors are long-range thinkers and have prepared for the long road ahead when consumer demand someday aligns with electric automobile technology. Recently Tesla’s investors had their confidence shaken when company stock prices dropped over 60% during the first week of April over a combination of news that was only slightly negative. If that bearish responsiveness is any indicator of the market, we could expect that a prolonged loss of investor confidence could snuff out the young company before they make it to the finish line.

Few people in the auto industry expect the Tesla plants to disappear or its existing cars to become obsolete. However, a sharp drop in Tesla market value will most likely lure General Motors or Toyota in to absorb the brand at a bargain price in the coming years. Unfortunately, if that happens, a Tesla surviving without Musk at the helm will probably see electric car technology being pushed to the back burner, adding several additional decades to reach full market potential.

It is times such as this that it becomes apparent that consumers (and voters) stated principals fail to correlate with their actions. This anomaly of consumer behavior manages to slow the adoption of superior technology for reasons that will remain a mystery.

My personal experience from being on the front lines, trying to persuade General Motors customers to buy the hybrid powertrain has burned this demand paradox into my view of most technological advances.

For now, we can appreciate how one man, Elon Musk, passionate about his vision for solar power has managed to get far enough to pose a serious market threat to all three economic super powers: auto manufacturing, petroleum and the global power grid. I tip my GM hat to the relentless visionary and hope he makes it to the finish line to prove the naysayers wrong.


As a matter of fact, back in 2012, I used to tell a similar story to this one about rates of technology adoption, it was my own story about the technology predictions of a decade earlier. In 2002, a full two years before Elon Musk joined Tesla, while he was busy building PayPal, I enrolled in an Automotive Technology program and was introduced to Professors suggesting that our class focus on the General Motors hybrid trucks and Chevrolet EV1 electric prototypes from the parking lot, since they would be the products in the market when we finished the program in 2005.

Not taking any credit away from the Tesla contributions, but electric and hybrid gas/electric models were well-developed by several large automakers and proven in field testing long prior to 2002. General Motors introduced the GM Impact electric car prototype in 1990 and revised it several times into the EV1 in 1996, adding the S10 EV truck in 1997, the duo sold around 1600 units from 1996 through 2002 when they were discontinued due to high replacement battery costs.

GM prepared the next generation of alternative fuel powertrains, this time using smaller batteries in combination with the standard gas engine, allowing drivers to select between gas and electric modes. The added value proposition to hybrid technology being that the hybrid optioned car could still be driven in standard gasoline mode if the customer chose not to spend the $10,000 plus to replace the batteries required for the electric mode.

In 2002, most of us in the GM world thought this hybrid technology would provide the company with the competitive edge needed to fend off the Japanese competitors in the global market. Inside GM, everyone seemed fully committed to the project and the service press even printed the repair manuals and training materials for an expected hybrid truck product release.

We were told that the first hybrids would release no later than 2005. Surprisingly though, with the exception of the quiet release of a small batch of hybrid tucks in 2005, General Motors delayed the marketing air campaign for hybrid offerings until 2009. The marketing launch failed to build the required buzz among consumers and even with $4 gas, the hybrids were seen by most as a dismal market flop. Some environmental critics claim that the marketing campaign was designed to flop with a hope of preserving GM’s previous investments in gas engine technology while also winning support of environmentally focused politicians.

Regardless of the motives of the ineffective marketing campaign, I was there when new customers came to our showrooms to test drive hybrid models, then agreed with the proposition of the revolutionary technology; but, when it came time to sign the finance contracts, the agreement fizzled out. Many of these deals fell apart in the finance office, when the customers began contemplating uncertain future repair costs, trade in values, warranty extensions and differences in insurance rates. It seemed like many feared that hybrids would be a passing fad and they could be stuck investing in a car that would have limited resale or trade in value.

In fact, from 2008 to 2018 the General Motors dealership I worked at sold around 8000 new vehicles and despite the huge bonus offered to sales staff and managers to improve sales of hybrids, the store sold a whopping total of sixteen hybrid cars in those nine years and nearly all of those were leases.

These thoughts came to mind earlier this week when having a conversation with friends about another ambitious prediction in tech news that, by 2020, over 90% of web traffic will be video rather than the text and image data of today.

Being jaded now by these types of predictions, I shared with them another related story, that just a couple of years earlier I had read a similarly optimistic prediction, that by 2020, few people would be texting and reading from their phones; instead, we would all be using Siri-like voice translators and listening to the replies of others through our cordless ear buds.

With the 2020 model year now only fifteen short months away, I realize that most of the auto manufacturing line equipment is currently tooling for that year’s production and my friends in engineering tell me that they are working from forecasts that fewer than 7% of GM vehicles sold in 2020 will be ordered with the hybrid powertrains.

With that fresh on my mind, I am sitting in the atrium lounge of the University of South Florida, surrounded by nearly a hundred of the youngest millennials and realized that they were all still texting from their phones and reading the responses. I will curb my enthusiasm for consumer technology adoption projections in the future…..  I am starting to see how old guys become so cynical



The foundation article from back in 2012, here is the research  on the state of fuel economy technology and the obstacles to adoption:

Continued Consumer Resistance to General Motors Hybrid Vehicle Technology  – November 7, 2012

EPA policies that affect the economy become front page news in an election year and the hot topic for 2012 is the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) revisions, requiring automakers to improve average automobile fuel economy from 29 mpg to 54.5 mpg over the next 13 years. Agreements to these revised fuel efficiency standards were concessions made by automakers during the industry bailouts of 2009.

In the backlash of that federal bailout, critics have been quick to fault American manufacturers for their lack of long-term planning. However, in defense of management strategy, the automakers have for decades been doing what profitable businesses do best, responding to consumer demand (Vlasic).

The press often suggests that domestic auto sales recovery will depend on the fuel economy of the products that manufacturers can provide. These critics assume that consumers make purchase decisions using primarily math and logic; but, those of us in the auto industry experience firsthand that purchase motives are more akin to purchasing fashions or artwork. To most Americans, their car is a part of their self-image, not just a tool that converts dollars into miles traveled.

Journalists such as News-Herald’s John Lasko write articles that with opening lines such as, “With gas prices hovering near $4 a gallon, many are opting to trade in their gas-guzzlers for more fuel-efficient vehicles.” With news headlines like those, it is easy for the public to conclude that the US automakers lack of sales was due to its heavy reliance on gas guzzling models. However, those assumptions are based on popular ideas that the domestic manufacturers previously lacked the capability to produce fuel-efficient vehicles. In their defense, the simple reality remains, the automakers must make their first priority to produce those vehicles that sell well in the domestic market.

The critics overlook the 3 million Chevrolet Chevettes that were produced between 1976 and 1987 or its domestic counterparts, the Plymouth Horizon and the Ford Fiesta that provided fuel efficiency equal to most economy cars on the market today. For example, the Chevrolet Chevette was for nearly a decade, the American flagship economy car, selling millions by providing a real world fuel economy of 25 city/ 30 hwy, or with a popular diesel engine option reaching 33 city/41 hwy. The Chevette was sold with a base price, that inflation adjusts to about $11,000 in today’s dollars and consistently surpassed the fuel economy ratings of it’s main Japanese competitor, the Toyota Corolla by nearly 2 mpg for nearly a decade (

Compare those cost and fuel efficiency ratings to today’s most economical products available in the US, the Korean made 2013 Hyundai Accent with an MSRP of $10,665 that is rated at 29 city/39 hwy. The comparison of these cars in the context of the 25 years of technology that evolved between them should dispel assumptions that Asian economy cars have enjoyed decades of superiority in fuel economy ( However, in the American car market, every one of those fuel sipping economy cars was discontinued in the late 1980’s when sales dried up as the pendulum of automobile fashion swung toward a return of larger and more powerful transportation, with the introduction Sport Utility vehicles and the return of V8 powered high performance sedans.

By 1990, it became increasingly unfashionable to be seen in fuel-efficient cars, American auto style entered the age of the 1993 Jeep Grand Cherokee, offering a taller ride height for a better visibility in traffic and providing the owner with a sense of safety and rugged capability. The Grand Cherokee became the benchmark to measure style popularity, marketed with an image of recreational outdoor travel and adventure rather than previous trend for economical commuter transport. These mid-sized all terrain Sport Utilities grew especially popular with female buyers in northern states, at the same time four-door 4×4 pickups became increasingly popular with young male buyers seeking that “Eddie Bauer” outdoorsy image.

Critics often ignore the strategic decisions that allocated research and development funding away from fuel economy and directed budgets to safety, performance and durability to meet the consumer demand curves. Over the past 15 years the average vehicle age alone has grown by a third to 10.8 years old with advancements in vehicle durability (USA Today). Additional progress that was made during that period to improve braking distances and implement crash avoidance technology reduced accident frequency and cut the percentage of crash fatalities in half. In an effort to appeal to consumer demands for more powerful accelerator pedals, 0-60 acceleration times have improved by over 40%. And to counter the reliability critics of the domestic cars from the 1980’s, the inflation adjusted annual maintenance costs have dropped by more than 80% (NADA.COM).

Today even after the industry collapse, American manufacturers once again dominate automobile industry technology development, General Motors again was ranked the 2011 No. 1 innovator in automotive patents by US patent board (Tuttle). However, consumer demand trends in automobiles are similar to those in fashion, with opposing trends recurring in 10-year cycles, such as style trends toward skinny jeans from bell bottoms and short carefully styled hair to today’s bushy headed natural hairstyles. Sociologists attribute 10-year style cycles to be dependent on the needs for generational self-image, as each generation makes fashion and identity statements to differentiate them from the previous generation.

Business Times writer Brad Tuttle suggests that the fuel economy trend that began in 08 will continue to gain momentum:

“A new True Car post traces the average miles-per-gallon rise among new cars sold
in the US… all of the top seven automakers posted dramatic year over year
increases in average miles per gallon. In 2011 the average new Ford got just 17.3
mpg compared with 22 mpg in February of 2012 … the rise comes primarily as a
result of Ford doubling sales of small cars such as the Fusion and Focus”
However, despite increases in economy cars sales, auto sales as a whole have risen, the demand is also increasing on 5-year-old full size SUV’s.

According to industry writer Nick Bunkley,
“Retail prices for five-year-old full size S.U.V.’s are 23 percent higher than a year ago
according to, an automotive information Website. That is more than
double the average price increase of 11 percent for all five-year-old vehicles.”
One constant in the automobile industry, vehicle selection is an emotional decision more than it is an economic one. Customer buying motives first and foremost are influenced by how the vehicle makes them feel, a vehicle becomes one with the driver, it can allow them to feel bigger, more secure or more powerful. I recently encountered a perfect case that really defined the influence of self-identity on vehicle selection.

Carolyn, a 60-year-old widow and retired guidance counselor arrived at our Buick-GMC showroom in a well maintained, three-year-old, luxury four-wheel drive truck. Carolyn had gotten a letter from our used car department that high demand for trade-ins like her truck had currently driven trade-in values up thousands over the previous year. The letter encouraged her to consider upgrading soon, to take advantage of current trade in values for used 4×4’s.

The timing of the letter was perfect for Carolyn, since she had recently moved to Florida from the Midwest and no longer had the need for wintertime four-wheel drive; to further complicate matter the garage of her new condo also couldn’t accommodate the truck. She explained when she arrived, that she really wanted to reduce her fuel budget and downsize into one the new hybrid Buick Regal sedans she had been reading about in the newspapers, rated for twice the fuel economy of her truck.

Over the following week Carolyn test drove over a dozen of fuel-efficient sedans from ours and different dealerships including the Hybrid Regal that she initially planned to purchase. Despite our best efforts to persuade her to choose our last remaining hybrid, she instead opted to buy the high performance Regal T Type, performance sedan, that ironically provides an only a slight fuel economy advantage of 15% over the truck she was trading in and was priced thousands higher than the $28,000 hybrid version.

Carol admitted that when driving the cars rated highly for fuel efficiency she felt as if she had sacrificed the power that she was accustomed to and those low powered cars made her feel old and slow behind the wheel, she insisted that she “wasn’t ready to feel like an old lady toodling down the right lane, holding up traffic”. Carol’s time behind the wheel of the Regal Turbo made her feel young and put a smile on her face every time she pushed down on the accelerator pedal. For the sake of “feeling young” she was perfectly content to pay an extra $90 in monthly car payment for the high-performance engine and luxury options and disregard the $65 month in fuel savings that the hybrid version offered.

Think of the vehicle choices by comparing it to an airplane selection; imagine choosing between airplanes, where you could select a 2 seat Cessna that might make you feel like buzzing mosquito, or for another $150 a month, you could pilot the F-16 fighter jet or a Boeing 747 to work, ….to you, which of those options excites you? The difference it capability seems huge and imagine if the difference in increased fuel costs was only an additional $100 a month. The thrill of becoming something larger and more powerful and the status that comes with that ownership has an attraction beyond what can be measured in simple terms of transportation costs per mile. American buyers have consistently demonstrated that they are willing to sacrifice a larger part of their income to enjoy vehicles that provide them with excitement.

Current sedan trends are influenced by the fuel-efficient designs from Asian manufacturers, designed to handle the high taxes on Japanese gas and the shortage of open roads and parking space on the islands of Japan. Understanding the American tastes requires us to understand the differences in our driving habits and the luxuries of smooth, open roads that Americans can enjoy, foreign drivers are often limited in their ability to appreciate American tastes for size and horsepower.

However, in Australia, with road systems similar to the US, a huge market still exists for large SUV’s, trucks and big engine cars. A market that was penetrated in the 1990’s when many Japanese automakers began to design vehicles to cater to the American influenced market, with large gas guzzlers like the Nissan Armada, Toyota Sequoia and Honda Ridgeline ensured import survival during the SUV years, and most notably even those Japanese trucks and SUV’s suffer from slightly lower fuel economy ratings than the American SUV competitors.

It has been easy for the press to fault American automakers for their lack of vision in developing economy vehicles, and to blame management for not remaining competitive in fuel efficiency technology. However, despite almost a total lack of advertising dollars for large engine SUV’s, compounded by the handicaps of stale, aged-out designs and a decrease of sales incentives offered, the demand for large SUV’s is climbing back to nearly 2008 levels despite continued fuel cost nearing $4.

Over the past 30 years American consumers have voted with their wallets, fuel economy was considerably less important to them than size, safety, reliability and performance. The challenge that lies ahead is not to build smaller, less powerful cars as much as the need to direct energy-saving technology development at the powerful SUV’s and spirited sedans that consumers demand (

Because for many Americans the automobile is more than transportation, it is a fashion decision as much as a financial decision, and many Americans have proven for decades that are perfectly willing to pay a premium to enjoy a few more smiles-per-gallon.


Work Cited


Bunkley, Nick. “As Car Owners Downsize, the Market Is Strong for Their Used S.U.V.’s.” New

York Times. 07 2012: n. page. Web. 7 Nov. 2012.

“Side By Side Economy Comparison.” US Environmental Protection Agency,

07 2012. Web. 7 Nov 2012.

Lasko, John. “Gas Prices Have Car Makers, Sellers, Buyers Looking at Fuel Efficiency.” The News

Herald. 30 2012: n. page. Web. 7 Nov. 2012.

. “Guidelines.” National Automobile Dealers Association, 07 2012. Web. 7 Nov 2012.

Tuttle, Brad. “Even with $4 Gas, Few Drivers Choose Electric Cars – Or Even Hybrids.” Business

Time. 12 2012: n. page. Web. 7 Nov. 2012.

Vlasic, Bill. “U.S. Sets Higher Fuel Efficiency Standards.” New York Times. 28 2012: n. page. Web.

7 Nov. 2012.

“Our Cars are Getting Older, too: Average Age now 10.8 years.” USA Today. 01 2012: n. page.

Web. 7 Nov. 2012.

General Motors Recovery and the Influence of Social Stigmas Faced By Industrial Workers

General Motors – Overcoming Stigmas Facing American Industrial Workers – Todd Benschneider

The 2008 bailout of General Motors remains a focal point of economics analysts and political journalists. Today, nearly four years after its corporate collapse reporters alternate between glowing praise and sharp criticism. However, regardless of viewpoint one fact cannot be ignored: General Motors has clawed its way back up Fortune Magazine 2012 rankings into 5th place of America’s largest revenue corporations (Morgenson 1). While the press and public opinion continue to focus on corporate leadership and the politicians who engineered the bailout, they tend to ignore the most important factor in the recovery, the devotion shown by workers at General Motors banding together to prove that they can produce a world class product at a competitive price. Modern America offers recognition to white collar workers and disregards achievement in engineering and the industrial trades, this shift in values may be contributing to declines in domestic production.

Much of this anti-union and industry sentiment results from taxpayer resentment of the government rescue of the world’s largest automaker General Motors, that left the American taxpayers owning 31.9% of the common stock. Today GM rightfully wages a daily war on two fronts: normal industry competition and now the new front of public relations, under a microscope of press scrutiny and public opinion. While this scrutiny seems to have generated results with increased accountability, as units sales climb, product ratings improve and as profitability reaces new levels. The 2012 employee profit sharing plans will provide dividends to compensate for a large portion of the pay cuts hourly employees had accepted as part of the restructuring plan. According to an article in the New York Times that for 2012 it is projected that “45,000 union workers would receive profit-sharing checks averaging $4,300, the most in the company’s history” (Morgenson 4).

However, many industry critics present pessimistic statistics influenced by personal political agendas and an ingrained anti-industrial sentiment. In an article that opens with anti-Obama critique, industry writer Louis Woodhill wrote a scathing review of GM products in the August edition of Forbes under the shocking title “General Motors is Headed for Bankruptcy—Again”. In the article Woodhill interprets a scoring aspect of recent “Car and Driver” review with:

“Not only was the 2013 Malibu (183 points) crushed by the winning 2012 Volkswagen Passat (211 points), it was soundly beaten by the 2012 Honda Accord (198 points), a 5-model-year-old design due for replacement this fall. Worst of all, the 2013 Malibu scored (and placed) lower than the 2008 Malibu would have in the same test.”

Despite a moderate share of negative press many Americans, influenced by recession and unemployment are reconsidering purchasing American industrial products in hopes that their support will result in a mutually beneficial environment for the American economy. This attitude is shared in the New York Times news article titled “General Motors 2012 Earnings: Second Quarter”, which while presenting a negative spin on GM’s European subsidiary, the article does present a positive spin on GM’s domestic operations with the paragraph:

“In its new carnation, the automaker is proving that it can be profitable at a lower sales volume. The company announced in February 2011 that it earned 4.7 billion in 2012, the most in more than a decade. It was the first profitable year since 2004 for G.M. which became publicly traded in November 2012, ending a streak of losses totaling about $90 billion” (Morgenson 1).

Some industry writers take a middle of the road stance on the American auto industry such as the CNN Money article entitled “A Recovering GM is Losing Ground at Home” which despite opening with the statistic that GM lost nearly 2% of the domestic market share in 2012, the article goes on to cite the influence of external factors by quoting auto industry economist Sean McAlinden with “Its very complex, the latest downturn isn’t from lack of sales, it is the result of GM closing down 3 million units of production facilities to improve profitability.” The article also offers hope in the second paragraph with “The Cadillac division in coming months will benefit from two key new model introductions” (Levin 1).

Economists and political journalists write about GM leadership strategies and shareholder returns but ignores those autoworkers putting in the effort day after day to prove that they can once again dominate the global automobile market. This critical public opinion of American manufacturers and the negative stigma of industrial trades is withour question the greatest obstacle of corporate moral. The resulting negative self-image among industrial workers slows the progress of American industry and that anti-industrial sentiment begins with the attitudes that modern Americans view those industrial jobs.

Over the past 150 years careers in manufacturing goods that were once viewed as hi-tech careers are perceived by many with a negative stigma. This negative connotation is fostered through the American educational system, especially the parents of school children in manufacturing communities. The attitudes being imbedded in schoolchildren are that by studying hard and earning professional credentials that they could escape a dirty and dangerous, low paying life of industrial work. Those children later grow into consumers that believe that through hard work and achievement that they “escaped industrial servitude” with careers in medicine, science and especially education and grow to resent industrial workers earning similar wages despite similar number of training hours to obtain that salary level.

This anti-industrial job mentality is crippling American manufacturing companies, especially in the automobile industry. A look in the parking lot of any white collar company such as JP Morgan here in Tampa and you can see that nearly 85% of white collar workers in non-industrial cities buy foreign produced automobiles and the exceptions to that rule are those few who desired the largest of SUV’s that do not have foreign counterparts. The reasoning typically offered by import owners, is the belief that the American manufacturers produce an inferior, unreliable product. Many that offer this excuse often admit that they had never owned a new American car for comparison.

The declines in American manufacturing will likely continue until society offers industrial achievement similar recognition to those contributing to the advancements in computer technology and finance professions. You can not build a champtionship team without being able to recruit the best engineering talents entering the workforce and you can not onbtain those cream of the crop graduates to accept a job in an industry with a sinking prestige factor.

Work Cited

Levin, Doron. “A Recovering GM is Losing Ground at Home”. CNN Money. May 11, 2012

Ed. Morgenson, Gretchen. “General Motors 2012 Earnings: Second Quarter”. The New York

Times. August 2, 2012

Woodhill, Louis. “General Motors is Headed for Bankruptcy –Again” . Forbes. August 15, 2012

Analytical Profiling of Job Candidates by Personality Type

The young science of personality type analysis and implementation of behavioral pattern predictors provide Human Resource managers with new tools to aid in selecting high level candidates for positions of high level responsibilities and leadership. Careful candidate selection for upper level executive positions is of crucial importance to an organization’s long term viability. An organization’s success is as dependent on the compatibility of its people as it is on marketplace competitiveness. By combining questionnaires such as the Meyers-Briggs Personality Assessment, resume history profiling and body language analysis, today’s Human Resource managers have powerful tools to reduce hiring candidates that may prove to be a poor fit.

As early as the 1500’s the godfather of political science Niccolo Machiavelli wrote his still famous book “The Prince” on topics of distinct patterns of behavior that proved consistent among successful rulers of the time. Machiavelli served as a trusted political adviser to rulers of his time and was trusted to teach his scientific approach to the applied psychology of leadership to the future successors of power. It is his study of applied social psychology and his beliefs that public perception of a leader are more likely the product of careful marketing rather than actual leadership competency is the founding principal of political science. One of the most often quoted Machiavellian lines that captures personality profiling for rulers of his era is: “What makes the prince contemptible is being considered changeable, trifling, effeminate, cowardly, or indecisive; he should avoid this as a pilot does a reef, and make sure that his actions bespeak greatness, courage, seriousness of purpose, and strength” (Machiavelli 46)

The United States military later furthered the application of this science as far back as the 1800s and later became one of the first to nations to invest millions of dollars in computer software to calculate which enlisted men that would make the most effective military officers.  It was believed that the officers to be trusted to follow and confidently implement orders from the chain of command fit a very small minority of the general population. It was generally agreed that the position did not rely as heavily on intelligence or charisma as it relied on an unwavering confidence in the mission’s orders. In fact it is rumored that unusually high intelligence is a disqualifier for entry level officer positions, however the military selection criteria are carefully guarded secrets. It would be safe to assume that the judging criteria is confidential to protect against potentially resourceful candidates from teaching themselves how to mimic the qualifying behavioral patterns (Ramsden 5-9).

For hundreds of years since political parties carefully study which potential nominees to back in order to ensure that the ideal candidate receives their financial backing. The party hopes that through superior job performance the correct candidate will provide his party with the greatest prestige, which in turn will provide increased power and financial backing for the party. The stakes are great not just for the political parties but the results of the actions of the new leaders will have far reaching and long term effects on an entire world of people. Selecting the best candidates for these positions of power justifies development of very precise tools to aid the selection process (Ramsden 43).

In the corporate world the stakes can run almost as high as the politics or military positions, since jobs, evolving technology and economies of great scale can have a great impact on a society. For example corporations such as Wal-Mart and General Motors have annual revenues greater than all but the most advanced countries gross national product. Selecting the top leaders of organizations of their scale justifies a considerable investment of technology, time and money. What research has shown is that the personality assessment tests and body language patterns among potential and retired upper management of these massive corporations is surprisingly similar (Tiger 21). However, upper management in other industries indicate different personality profiles than those largest blue chip corporations, while the profile of long term successful leaders in those industry remained consistent (Ramsden 174).

Leadership profiles for science and engineering fields are often measured by their natural process of problem solving and creative ingenuity, however personality profiling for upper management is weighted very heavily on the candidate’s process of information, tolerance for risk and resulting command for action as well as their interpersonal diplomacy (Cascio 395). In different industries various combinations of priority must be taken in relations to the investigative, exploring, determining, evaluating, commitment and timing of strategy changes. For instance in fast paced technology fields such as software an ideal candidate might be best suited to possess traits that causes them to skip quickly through the determining and evaluating stages of the process to get unique ideas onto the marketplace ahead of competitors.  However successful candidates for mature, low tech industries with high environmental risks such petroleum production would be better suited to possess traits that prioritize determining and evaluative stages of decision making (Ramsden 266).

The field of human resources is widely recognizing that success in a particular type of industry almost routinely predicts failure at the helm of a company in another industry. However, many managers craving new challenges defect in response to offers from other industries. If the industry requires similar traits the new position will likely enjoy some success (Ramsden 328). However when moving to an industry of considerably different skill sets, the transition often results in a disaster. Imagine the founders of Google trying their hand at managing a corporation that produces nuclear power.

Understanding the importance of identifying personality types that have proven successful in similar companies or similar positions is the first step. Consistently identifying those personality types among the applicants is the second step. Some of the clues will be found on the resume with what types of jobs the candidate has the longest experience with, it is unlikely to find someone such as a detail oriented analyst that would fit an opening for the new staff accountant that also has a 5 year history in outside sales on his job history. It is equally unlikely to discover a successful candidate for software developer position has resume history that includes of 12 years as a bartender (Ramsden 146). On a very consistent level people are drawn to careers that they are most comfortable with and 10 years or more in the workforce typically reveals a gradual migration to positions where the job requirements mirror the person’s talents (Oglive).

In today’s hiring processes most large organizations require candidates for all positions to complete a Myers-Briggs style personality preferences questionnaire while submitting the standard application for employment. The 70-210 question test uncovers if the natural decision making preferences of the applicant coincide with the duties they will likely find in their new position. Many applicants do not have a clear vision of what the daily work regimen would be like in the position they are applying for. If hired into a position that requires them to perform tasks far outside of those they are most comfortable with, both the employee and the employer suffer.

A large mature company may have hundreds of employees in similar positions that an applicant is applying for, the personality assessments for those contented and productive employees can be analyzed and compared to the personality preferences of potential applicants. The same company will likely also have data records of new hires that did not work well in the position and can use this data to discover that their profiles differed considerably from those successful new hires. Myers-Briggs style personality assessments uncover preferences that can identify which candidates are not only qualified, but those who will also enjoy the work and work well with teammates (Oglive 3).

The latest tool integrated into the process was popularized by the 1993 book that founded the science of body language analysis written by Pamela Ramsden and Jody Zacharias titled “Action Profiling –Generating Competitive Edge Through Realizing Management Potential.” Ramsden’s research added a new abstract art to the science of behavioral profiling. Their revolutionary book is still considered the reference book that founded the scientific study of body language profiling as a predictor in upper management candidates success. The book provides initial analytical interview notes and the subsequent long term performance case studies of 15 high level corporate executives. These long term case studies showed that the prototype analytical system used during the interview process accurately predicted these executives long term success with their new employer. “Action Profiling” had later become so highly regarded in the field of human resources that it had become required reading for Harvard Business School MBA program for several years (Ramsden 3).

Over the past 30 years the interpretation of body language analysis has earned its place as a credible subset in the sciences of applied psychology. Gradual technological advancements in high speed digital cameras and computerized analysis are building a precision field of body language profiling. For example with extremely high levels of consistency individuals that test high in the test area of Sensory inclinations areas also exhibit erect postures a graceful gait and typically have a history of athletic success.  With some measure of predictability these erect sitting stiff candidates are also measurably less likely to have graduate degrees or excel in positions that require creative outputs. In another example candidates that walk with an exceptionally fast pace regardless of where they are walking to typically test high in Decisiveness and are also normally extremely well groomed and dressed, these types also routinely prefer positions with authority to manage subordinates (Oglive 4)

Long term studies of predictive reliability of pre-employment Meyers-Briggs self-assessment questionnaires give hope that once broken down into consistently measurable analytical parameters employee productivity and further developed that body language analysis can become one of the highest profit tools in business management (Tracy 36).  Analytical models for body language predictors were based on finding consistent correlations between patterns of body language types and their remarkably consistent Meyers-Briggs answers (Demarais 18). It is with those correlation findings that psychology researchers are gaining confidence that long term behavioral patterns can be predicted by combining a battery of written tests along with an interview to help isolate which candidates will ultimately provide a large organization with its most effective leadership qualities (Cascio 53).

Ultimately much is at stake in the selection process of top level executives and a successful human resources manager will employ an arsenal of scientific tools to aid in making the best selection of available candidates for the position. Beginning with resume history, criminal and personal credit evaluations, candidates that have successful experience in similar positions will be invited to take skills based testing and Meyers-Briggs style personality assessments to further identify candidates most likely to excel in the job description. Once the field has been trimmed to the final 10% of qualified applicants, a multi session personal interview with several trained analysts in separate settings is justified. These interviews should include evaluations by several body language experts to confirm that the personality measured on their Meyers-Briggs is consistent with body language interpretation. The economy of massive scale that depends on CEO level positions performance justifies the application of as much science and research as is available to protect against the costs of a bad hire at the highest levels.

Work Cited

Cascio, William F. Applied Psychology in Human Resource Management Sixth Edition.

             Upper Saddle River: Pearson Publishing, 2005. Print.

Demarias, Ann. First Impressions: What You Don’t Know About how Others See You.

             New York: Bantam Dell Publishing, 2004. Print.

Machiavellli, Niccolo. The Prince. Second Edition. London: W. Norton and Company Publishing,

1992. Print.

Ogilvie, Rosemary. Understanding Personality Types – Extrovert or Introvert.  Her Magazine

August 2009. Internet June 18, 2012

Ramsden, Pamela. Action Profiling: Generating Competitive Edge Through Realizing

             Management Potential. Brookfield: Gower Publishing, 1993. Print.

Tieger, Paul D. The Art of Speed Reading People: Harness the Power of Personality Type.

Boston: Little, Brown and Company Publishing, 1998. Print.

Tracy, Brian. Hire and Keep the Best People: 21 Practical and Proven Techniques. San Francisco:

Berrett-Koehler Publishing, 2001. Print.

Birth Order Effect on Personality Development



The long term

influence of a child’s birth order has been a deeply debated and thoroughly

researched aspect of developmental psychology. Society has embraced birth order

theory as popular psychology and many psychologists agree that influence of

birth order shapes our later life choices which impact our social interactions,

choice of professions and relationship strategy. Critics of birth order theory

argue that changes measured in later life are shown that can alter the previous

influence of the birth order, therefore this contradiction would indicate that

birth order is a temporary environmental influence which can be eliminated by

later life environmental changes rather then a steady biological factor of

imbedded trait development.


Birth Order Influence on Childhood Personality Development


Austrian Psychoanalyst Alfred Adler published initial

papers on Birth Order Theory in the early 1900’s. Adler defined his theory that

the oldest child’s personality develops differently after he is “dethroned” by

the next child who then becomes the new focus of his parent’s attention, he is

then assigned a unique role as a surrogate parent to help raise his younger

siblings at the sacrifice of his own self interest. The youngest child or only

child does not grow through a period of mentoring subordinate siblings and

therefore lacks some developmental character building experience into adulthood

(Adler 1928).  For many years since birth

order stereotypes have been a common household belief, society had previously

found little reason to question the early scientific studies that reaffirmed

Adler’s original concept.

However more recent research pointed out a lack of

consistent evidence for birth order influence on adult personality on a large

scale. And studies in late adulthood fail to find remaining influences of birth

order behavioral traits. Using more precise scientific controls for statistical

reliability, modern researchers have failed to produce statistically

significant evidence to support these widely believed stereotypes of birth

order behavior (Paulhus, 1998).

Birth Order Traits

Oldest Child Traits

Oldest children are observed to be

intelligent, energetic, logical, ambitious, enterprising, conscientious,

punctual, scholarly, socially conservative, emotionally neurotic and self

confident. Eldest children have shown a measurable intelligence advantage over

their younger siblings. The intelligence advantage is reliably supported when

contrasted against only children who did not share this measurable intelligence

advantage over the population as a whole. The theories for the eldest advantage

typically attribute it to the intellectual development gained from tutoring

younger siblings early in life (Ernst, 1983).

Eldest most often pursue goal oriented

accomplishment to demonstrate superiority in competitions of social ideals to

win affection from parents. Over 70 percent of entrepreneurs, 90 percent of

astronauts, 80 percent of Nobel Prize winners and 65% of American presidents

were eldest children, and these statistics climb dramatically as we adjust for

second born who are the oldest male in a family. They are consistently found in

leadership occupations, have the highest rate of military service, and are

dramatically overrepresented in political, law enforcement and corporate

leadership; they also dominate precision sciences such as law, medicine and

engineering. They exhibit a higher then average resistance to change, and are

most likely to demonstrate aggression when met with resistance from

subordinates (Sulloway 2001).  They are

found in measurably low concentrations in fields that offer limited structure

and instead reward creativity such as sales, advertising, art and music.

Middle Child Traits

Typical middle child traits are measured to be

cooperative, flexible diplomatic mediators of social conflict. Middle children

also self report the highest scores of suspicion, mistrust and cynicism of

intentions of their superiors; however they have the highest loyalty rating to

their subordinates of any birth rank (Sulloway, 2001).

Middle children never enjoyed the unique period of home life

as an only child like the eldest and youngest enjoy at some point. To

compensate for this hardship, middle children focus on developing a supportive

social circle outside of the home, investing their energy cultivating

friendships and alliances with their peers.

Middle children become more financially and emotionally

independent and typically live the furthest distance from the parents later in

life. They are also the least likely to return home for family gatherings or to

ask their parents for financial assistance (Sulloway 2001). Of the trait of

generosity, middles offer their subordinates the highest rates compensation in

the workplace and are more likely to offer acts of reciprocal altruism in

effort to build a team approach to tasks. Middle children have been measured to

rate their childhood as unloving and unsupportive on self-assessment

questionnaires (Ernst, 1983).

Middle children are most likely to enter professions that

require diplomacy, innovation, reward risk, as well as fields which allow creative

latitude in establishing their duties and the pace which the tasks must be

accomplished. Middle children are overrepresented in the fields of fine art,

advertising, sales, mediation, education, psychology and personnel management.

Middle born children have been found to be measurably underrepresented in

military service and strictly structured corporate cultures (Sulloway,


Youngest Child Traits

Youngest children are observed to be the most empathetic,

creative, carefree, liberal, and rebellious. Behavioral testing indicates them

to be risk takers, idealists, witty, secretive and emotionally immature for

their age. They more then any other birth order excel at artistic pursuits

especially the performing arts of acting, dancing and music. They are playful

even as adults and develop a tactful non-confrontational approach to social

interactions often relying on humor and flattery to persuade others to their

point of view (Sulloway, 2001). They have been measured to have some emotional

underdevelopment which may be from lacking the experience of watching a

biological duplicate of themselves at varying stages of maturity as any older

sibling can witness, this unique perspective may be key to a keen emotional


A  study uncovered

an unusually high incidence of homosexuality in youngest sons, Edward Miller

further studied that data on the phenomena in his book Homosexuality,

Birth Order

and Evolution which indicated that the more older brothers a male has, the

higher probability he will be homosexual. This birth order sexual preference

however has not found a measurable correlation to females in either the number

of older sisters the male has or any measurable influence of female

homosexuality (Miller, 2009).

Only Children

Only children have been measured to mature

faster, have higher verbal test scores, and are perceived as responsible,

self-centered, perfectionists. Only children especially only males demonstrate,

high levels of work ethic and career oriented achievement and are observed to

demonstrate the longest enduring commitment to goals.  While society seems to universally stereotype

only children as spoiled and selfish, a study of over 5000 Chinese families

with only children were compared to peers with siblings, that research failed

to uncover any statistical disadvantage to the long term success of only

children. (Sulloway, 2001)


A study published in the 1980s showed no correlation

between birth order and the big five personality traits of randomly selected

population in military entrance assessments (Ernst 1983). However Sulloway has

found that when studying each individual within a family the influence of birth

order is remarkably defined, however when comparing personality traits across

all members of society that birth order has a very weak influence on

personality traits. Paulhus believes this can be explained by accepting the

fact the birth order is a weaker influence then heredity of behavioral

genetics. This theory could explain why the 2nd born from 100

different families can measure much differently on personality assessments

however still exhibit 2nd born traits when compared with their

siblings within their family (Sulloway, 2001).

Further support of birth order impact on personality was

found in  a 2009 study documented that

first, middle and last born adults subconsciously self segregated themselves

into workgroups when assigned a group project. This natural selection of group

project partners suggests that we have a subconscious awareness in our own

behavioral traits and can unknowingly perceive them in those around us to allow

us to partner up with peers that share our priorities (Miller, 2009).


Adler, Alfred.

1928. “Characteristics of the First, Second, and Third Child”,

Children, 3, 14-52.

Ernst, Cécile

& Angst, Jules. 1983. Birth Order: Its Influence on Personality.

Berlin and New York



Paulhus, D.L., Trapnell, P.D., & Chen, D. (1998).

Birth order effects on personality and


within families. Psychological Science, 10, 482-488.

Miller, Edward. Homosexuality,

Birth Order and Evolution. (February 2000) Archives of Sexual

Behavior No. 29 . 1-34

Sulloway, F.J. (2001). Birth Order, Sibling Competition,

and Human Behavior.