Great story and very insightful. What a great way to understand the importance of one on one user research.
I saw a documentary a few years ago about how Nissan had a similar problem. They had models that were faster and more reliable than most well known sports car, but weren’t selling. User research showed it was all because their car wasn’t pretty. It was too boxy in comparison with the streamlined and aggressive sports cars in Europe.
They have also evolved greatly to have some of the most popular models with great design ;)