TRAVERSE CITY, MI – As Lear Corp. developed the seating system for the current Toyota Sienna minivan, the supplier tapped an unlikely group for its consumer research: children.

"We asked the primary users what they wanted," Patrick Murray, vice president-Lear's VisionWorks unit, says at Wednesday's Management Briefing Seminars here.

As the father of four children – and the owner of five consecutive minivans – Murray knows children can be awfully tough customers.

"One young lady was dissatisfied with gray and beige interiors," Murray tells the crowd, before playing a video of three young girls poring over the Sienna interior.

One of them demanded "100 cupholders," he says. Another wanted easy access to load a bicycle through the hatch.

"Kids and consumers will tell you right away what they really want," Murray says. "They get more frustrated when you don't listen. Listening and responding is the key to a successful consumer approach."