Consultancy Mines Data To Develop 'Vehicle DNA'

The abbreviation for deoxyribonucleic acid has become a cliché for things marketers consider inalienable about their brands. Well, there's another definition to add: a "driver's desires, needs and attribute priorities." That's San Diego-based Strategic Vision's definition of what it calls a customer's "vehicle DNA."

The consultancy has a new study that mines both sales data and ownership impressions to develop differences in likes, dislikes and perceptions among new-car buyers who identify themselves as African-American, Hispanic or Asian-American.

Per the consultancy, while African-Americans are much more likely to advocate vehicles that express their individuality and success to family and friends, Latinos have a greater desire to experience exhilarating driving and performance. Asian-Americans demand a balanced, complete vehicle performance and style that matches their lives.

Strategic Vision says African-Americans are attracted to vehicles that are "Powerful and Classy" (and names Chrysler's 300 as an example). Hispanic buyers look for "Aggressive and Powerful, but Confident and Protective" vehicles (Strategic Vision says Kia Sedona falls into that category). Asian buyers, looking for "the complete package, choose vehicles that are Pleasant yet Powerful, Easy Going yet Protective--all with modern design and technology ( e.g., Acura MDX)."



The report's qualitative terms (describing what owners like in their vehicles) derive from SV's vehicle-experience study, in which consumers choose characteristics and imagery around their vehicles.

Alex Edwards, who runs Strategic Vision's automotive practice, says the survey comprises 50 or so choices, like 'aggressive,' or 'care free', from which respondents must choose six. "We had a total 200,000 survey respondents, and of that, the majority identified themselves as Caucasian, but there were 10,000 who identify themselves as African-American or Hispanic or Asian-American," he says.

Edwards says that 35% of those who said they were African-American said that they would look for powerful vehicles, "which is 45% higher than what the macro community was doing. So there was a significant increase among African-American new-car buyers looking for powerful vehicles."

Edwards points out that self-identified African-Americans found Chrysler's 300C sedan to be one of the strongest vehicles in perceived quality. "One thing that's very important to get across is that for the most part, African-Americans, Caucasians and Asian-Americans look similar in our desires and priorities and what we want out of vehicles.

"But there are some areas that are a little more important to various ethnicities ... African-Americans who purchase new vehicles actually have a stronger self-perception than any other group: they feel more secure, more proud of their accomplishment than any other ethnicity who purchases new vehicles, except in the attribute of trusting others.

"One area they are really high in is a desire for individuality: they see themselves as highly individual, and like to be able to express themselves as individuals. When it comes to buying new vehicles they look for things that set them apart from others."

The consultancy says that top brands among African-Americans are Lexus, Mercedes, Infiniti--in the luxury segment--and Honda, Ford and Chevrolet among standard brands. Hispanic Americans' top brands are Mercedes, BMW and Acura for luxury and Scion, Pontiac and Saturn for standard mass-market brands. Asian-Americans indexed to Mercedes, Audi and BMW on the lux side and Hyundai, Honda and Ford in mass-market auto brands.

The firm says that the most-purchased brands by African-Americans are Nissan, Toyota, Chevrolet, Ford Honda, Dodge, Chrysler, Mercedes, Hyundai and Kia, in that order. For Hispanic consumers: Toyota, Chevrolet, Ford, Nissan, Honda, Dodge, Jeep, Hyundai VW and BMW. And for Asian-Americans: Toyota, Honda, Nissan, BMW, Mercedes, Lexus, Acura, Ford, Hyundai and Mazda, in that order.

"Mercedes is doing better with Hispanic buyers than with Asian buyers," says Edwards, "but still it's the number one among both groups. One of our positions is that for new vehicle buyers, in general, their desires are very similar regardless of ethnic affiliation. But there are different priorities one should address. If, say, you are going into a highly Hispanic area, you shouldn't have a different message, but a similar message with varied accent points."

He says automakers should pay attention--not just because the population of the U.S. is becoming more diverse--but also because urban areas are where cultural trends originate. "African-Americans, Asian-Americans, Latino Americans--they direct future trends and styles."

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