What a Woman Wants—In Cars
Fall used to be the “big reveal” for new cars, but now many auto manufacturers unveil new models or restyles of existing models in the spring as well. Purchasing that new car should be a fun experience—after all, there’s a long-held financial saying that it’s the second largest purchase one makes.
Some people view a vehicle as transportation—a means to get from here to there—while others take a more personal view. Additionally, men and women tend to have different wants and needs in their vehicles.
“The biggest thing that I see today is that women are well educated on the product. They’re doing research not only on the vehicles, but also on dealerships,” says Marcia Moran, a 20-year veteran in the car sales industry and new car sales manager at Freedom Auto Group, Harrisburg.
She said that popular vehicles for female buyers at Freedom Toyota had previously been four-door sedans such as the Corolla or Camry, but when the RAV4 (a small SUV) was redesigned in 2013, it quickly became a top seller among women.
“It’s been popular with single moms, young couples, and older women,” she explains. “They like to sit up higher, which means increased visibility. It’s easier to get in and out of. It now has a larger engine, a 2.5-liter four-cylinder, and the cargo room gives it more versatility. Plus it goes well in the snow. Prior to the redesign, the spare tire was mounted on the back of the vehicle, and now it has a sleeker style that’s more appealing to women.”
The RAV4 is one of several small SUVs. The segment includes the Ford Escape, which was redesigned for 2013; Honda CRV, which was redesigned in 2012; Mazda CX-5; Subaru Forester; Hyundai Tucson, which is redesigned for 2016; and Nissan Rogue.
Moran says that women look for safety features such as anti-lock brakes, traction control, vehicle stability control, and blindspot monitoring.
Although at least 10 car companies have made automatic brakes a standard feature, Toyota was the first full-line automaker to offer the system in their Smart Stop Technology, which brings the vehicle to a stop in cases of unintended acceleration.
Moran adds that backup cameras are also popular.
“That’s a really nice feature—it helps in all kinds of situations, including parallel parking,” she says.
A number of technology features such as Bluetooth, which allows hand-free operation of cellphones, are also on female buyers’ lists of features. Some manufacturers have enhanced Bluetooth technology that allows for voice commands.
The remote power liftgate, which allows for easy access to the rear cargo area, is also on the top of their lists.
“It’s great for stowing groceries or kids’ sporting gear,” Moran says.
Additionally, once a woman has narrowed down the vehicle and options she prefers, color comes into play.
“Color is really important to women. Because so much information is available online, most women come in with one or two [colors] they prefer. If we don’t have it on our lot, we’ll dealer locate it,” she stressed.
I purchased a vehicle last year and definitely agree that color is an important consideration along with technology and safety features.
One item that was also on my list of features was remote start. It’s nice to have in the winter to warm up the vehicle (and clear the windows) when it’s parked outside on cold days and in the summer to cool it down on a hot day before you get into it.
Fortunately, manufacturers have installed safety features that make it difficult to steal the car when the remote start is being used—the vehicle is still locked and you actually have to start it to drive away.
Savvy female car buyers have become the norm rather than the exception, and Moran says that’s affected their interaction with dealerships.
“When women walk into a car dealership, they want to be treated with respect and know that they’re a valued customer. It’s been my experience that people visit two dealerships before making the purchase decision. At Freedom Auto Group, we realize that—we’re in the ‘life improvement business’ and our customers are guests in our home,” she explains.
She stresses that the buying experience for women is about the best price, and that includes being transparent about pricing, i.e., having prices of vehicles clearly labeled; the best service both during and after the sale; and the way they’re treated.
“Our role at the dealership is to help them find the vehicle that fits their needs,” Moran says.
With regard to service, it’s important to have options to meet women’s schedules, which include work-related considerations as well as juggling children’s commitments with sports and/or extracurricular activities and home-related items.
Moreover, there are a lot of single moms, so service amenities such as shuttles to and from work or local shopping malls, providing loaners, and picking up or delivering a car for service from work are important offerings.
“Most dealerships offer Saturday service hours, but who wants to spend time on a Saturday waiting for your car to be serviced?” Moran says.
Another trend she identified is leasing a vehicle rather than purchasing it.
“It’s not only more affordable, but a number of women choose to lease rather than purchase because they don’t have to deal with repairs other than routine maintenance since they aren’t driving it past the manufacturer’s warranty period,” she explains.
She also pointed out that in some cases people have been looking for a pre-owned vehicle and were able to lease a new vehicle for the same monthly payment they had budgeted.
“Purchasing a new car should be an exciting and fun experience for women, not something intimidating,” Moran says. BW