Commentary

The Auto Industry's Missed Opportunity: Female Consumers

Three in four moms consider themselves the sole decision-maker when it comes to new car purchases. Yet, 91% of women feel misunderstood by car manufacturers. I wondered why, so I reached out to Jody Devere of “Ask Patty,” an automotive expert who lives and breathes the automotive space every day.

“Although I see some improvement with car manufacturers making strides in becoming more relevant to women, there is much room for growth. I serve on the board of the M2W Conference which is held every spring in Chicago and also attend the M2Moms Conference held each fall. Few automotive industry leaders attend, which I think shows they are not really listening to women car buyers,” said Jody
. If they did, here’s what they could learn.

91% of all franchise dealerships are still run by men. 

We haven’t gotten to the point where everyone buys a car online so the dealership experience is paramount to making the sale. As a recent Cars.com study pointed out, 71% of moms think shopping online for a new or used vehicle makes the process much easier, but 68% still want to go to the dealership for the negotiations that are run by men.

“The auto industry needs more education and training revolving around creating a culture that women want to work in and buy cars or bring them in for service and repairs,” stated Jody.

“I often say, ‘It's not like school counselors are promoting careers in the automotive industry!’ Dealerships and automakers want to recruit, hire and retain more women in various roles, but women often do not apply for the jobs or find the dealership culture a good career fit. I am aware of only a few programs actively working to recruit women like BMW, Mercedes and GM's Woman’s Retail Network (WRN), headed up by Celeste Briggs, for example.” 

Car companies are making strides in accommodating females.

In a recent briefing, Frost & Sullivan stated OEMs like Nissan, Ford, and Volkswagen have already begun aiming new vehicle models at women. Automotive makers are considering special pedals for long heels, park assist and sensorial doors and intuitive controls.

By 2020, females will make up 25% of leading OEMs’ workforce and 15-20% will be at management level. Further evidence of the growing importance of women are workshops and 'ladies evenings' hosted by luxury OEMs in the US and the UK. In Japan, female-friendly dealerships provide nursing rooms and spacious children's play areas. 

Tips for connecting with women:

1.Listen to the voice of female consumers, stay updated on their conversation and respond with appropriate action, messaging, products and a relevant customer experiences. 

2.Attend "women-centric" conferences like M2W, M2Moms or the BlogHer.com conferences to understand their current needs and wants. 

3.Hire more women in influential decision-making roles and value their perspective.

4. Utilize the expertise of companies or agencies that specialize in helping the automotive retail industry get it right with women.

The trend toward the female consumer in the auto industry is prevalent, especially with Mary Barra as the first female CEO of a major auto group. I asked Jody, if she were sitting down with Mary right now, what she would ask her to change. “...I would ask her to work on changing the male view that women need to be a ‘certain type of woman’ to thrive in the auto industry, and ask her to actively support diversity, gender balance and equality across the board,” Jody stated.

As with any industry, the first step in engaging moms is to become relevant to them. And once the auto industry fully embraces this, they will unlock the missed opportunity of the female consumer.

2 comments about "The Auto Industry's Missed Opportunity: Female Consumers".
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  1. Joanne Lucas from winston Staffing, November 7, 2014 at 11:07 a.m.

    Car dealerships don't sell to women. In my experience, women aren't approached unless there is a MALE accompanying her. My niece was looking to buy a car. The sales rep was told that SHE was buying the car. The salesman nodded, and started talking with my nephew. They stated AGAIN that she was buying the car and that he should speak with HER. That happened three times and they left the dealership...and a sale was lost...I wonder what the sales rep thought when they left!

  2. Casey Kimberly from General Mills, November 7, 2014 at 11:36 a.m.

    I'm not naming names but here's a thought for automakers who wish to recruit female employees and relate to female buyers: When selecting locations for conferences, choose one that does not include, "Blackjack and roulette dealt by beautiful women in chic lingerie while go-go dancers move to the rhythm of the hottest beats!"

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