Europe: Trends in women buying cars
We identified trends that show that more European women are driving and purchasing vehicles than ever before; that they prefer smaller, more economical vehicles; that they aren’t using vehicle technology to the fullest extent, but are more interested in technologies like autonomous cars; and that they are increasingly using social media as a tool for car-buying research. Additionally, we’ve noted trends in increased marketing towards women, and a greater number of women working within the industry itself.
METHODOLOGY & FINDINGS
We began by searching for general and demographic-specific trends in auto purchases in Europe. Extensive information was found on the global and US markets. For the European market as a whole, a wide range of statistics was available, however, statistics and information with a demographic focus were scarce. This search included an extensive advanced search of the European Auto News site, which is a premier site for the industry in that region, and which also turned up no relevant or useful results. We located another report from Green European Journal, which provided an extensive overview of “The Future of Europe’s Car Industry,” though nothing was included on demographics or shifts/trends related to gender. We then expanded our focus and conducted targeted searches on each of the five major markets within Europe: UK, Germany, Spain, Italy, and France.
Our searches turned up no specific demographic or car-purchasing behaviors studied in Spain, Italy, or France within the past two years. Limited demographic information was found for the UK and Germany, as well as Europe as a whole. Although a vast variety of statistics are available for Europe, it appears that very little demographic and gender-specific research is conducted on auto sales in this region.
Despite the limited availability of information, we were able to identify six trends relevant to your query. For each one, we have provided statistical and informational support to prove the trend. It is important to note that some of this information is not gender-specific and some of it is more globally-focused, though still applies to the overall trend itself, so it was included to give you the most comprehensive explanations possible.
TREND: MORE WOMEN ARE DRIVING
Research from CDK Global calls women the “largest emerging market” in the auto sales industry. A paywalled report from 2014, although more-dated than we typically use at Wonder, provides the most-recent comprehensive insights into global women’s car-purchasing behaviors. Although the entire report is not publicly-available, insights note that, “Women are dominating the car-buying process, which is evidenced by an increase in license holding. In the United States, female drivers now outnumber male drivers. Europe will soon follow.” They note that women are the “rising power” in the automotive buying value chain, and encourage auto manufacturers and dealers to take note of this – and adjust their strategies accordingly. Recent research from Car Insurance-Arrive Alive supports this in noting that, in the UK specifically, driver’s license applications by women have increased, while those for men have decreased over the last few years. They also note that, “in Germany, women hold more than 40% of licenses and the rate is rapidly increasing”. Statistically speaking, Auto News reports that, “The number of women owning cars in the U.K. jumped 66 percent in the decade through 2016, official figures show, almost triple the rise in for men. In Germany, Europe’s biggest car market, women buy about a third of all new vehicles and in France 37 percent.”
Even though more women are driving, research shows that most women find the experience of going to a car dealership daunting, with This Money noting that only 22% “of women said they felt confident about going to buy a new car”. A report from Deloitte shows that most European new car buyers least like the amount of paperwork involved in car purchases, and highly dislike the process of haggling over the price. Since women often feel less confident in the negotiating process, this is not surprising, though it does indicate a specific strategy shift that auto dealerships should apply if they hope to continue competing in the European market.
TREND: INCREASED MARKETING GEARED SPECIFICALLY TOWARD FEMALE BUYERS
Research shows that, globally, women influence between 80% - 85% of all car-buying decisions. Additionally, women purchase 65% of all new cars bought globally. Because of this, a number of sources (like BuzzBusiness, for example) indicated that auto manufacturers and auto dealerships are increasing the marketing they do that is geared toward women – and making females a priority in their overall marketing strategies. This is occurring globally, though especially in Europe, since research shows that more women are getting behind the wheel (of their own cars) than ever before.
Research by CDK Global (detailed by Driving Sales) shows that women approach car-buying differently than men, and advertising should be geared directly toward how women buy cars. However, they also note that “most dealerships are afraid to acknowledge gender” for fear “that treating women differently will signal that they’re not treating them equally”. To market (and sell) cars most successfully to women, understand how women approach car purchases – as identified by eMarketer: (A) Women prioritize “reliability, safety, and fuel economy” in their purchases. (B) Women connect less to technical descriptions and more to descriptions that help them understand what the experience of driving the vehicle is like. (C) Women are least concerned with the prestige of owning a vehicle, distinctive styling, or the latest technology.
Research on the UK market from This Money notes that, although females play a significant role in car purchases, they are often “put off by adverts and dealers”. In fact, only 29% reported that they believed vehicle advertisements were geared toward them, and a whopping 64% agreed that “most motors advertising is designed to appeal to men”. 51% of women reported that most car ads featured people to whom they did not connect or relate, and 46% indicated that most car ads didn’t provide the information they most wanted to know. The research shows that this is “because women are far more interested in the practicalities of ownership, ranking the importance of insurance, servicing, and tax higher than med do”. Only 41% of women reported finding vehicle advertisements useful in car-buying decisions. These findings indicate why so many auto manufacturers and dealerships are starting to focus more specifically on their female demographic.
To support this trend, Auto News reports that, for the 2018 Geneva Auto Show, several auto manufacturers will be replacing their typical “booth babes” with both male and female models. This is in response to the global #metoo movement, as well as to better market to women. Additionally, they report that, “Larger automakers including Toyota Motor Corp. and Nissan Motor Co. have also said they will cut back on the coquetry in Geneva, marking a potential sea change for an industry that has long pandered to male customers by using attractive women to sell cars.”
TREND: WOMEN ARE NOT USING VEHICLE TECHNOLOGY AS OFTEN AS THEY COULD BE
As noted in the last section, one of the factors least-concerning to women is the technology offered in their vehicles. In support of these findings, a study conducted in Europe, North America, and China showed that 25% of car owners do not use the technology (and/or connected) features in their vehicles, with 11% of these individuals not even knowing what technological capabilities their vehicles have. Additionally, they report that 56% of new car purchasers who activated various technologies in their vehicles do not plan to review those services in the future.
Interestingly, the research also indicated that “CASE innovations (connected, autonomous, shared, and electric driving)” were more-widely accepted and utilized than other technologies. In Europe, for self-driving cars, acceptance levels reached 36%, for electric vehicles (full and partial), acceptance levels reached 53%, and for car-sharing, acceptance levels were lowest at 21%. In Germany, research from Green Car Congress shows that women (and more frequently older women) are less interested than men in buying electric cars. This is despite the fact that Auto News reports that a trend in Germany points toward “a rise in private consumption [of electric vehicles] helped by manufacturers’ incentives to trade in older, dirtier diesels”.
TREND: MANUFACTURERS & DEALERSHIPS ARE HIRING MORE WOMEN
Since more women are buying cars (or have more say in the buying process), car dealerships all over the globe are increasingly focused on hiring more women to work showrooms, as well as promoting more women to management positions. BuzzBusiness notes that, “Car makers are responding proactively to these trends, promoting women to senior positions and putting them at the heart of their marketing efforts, as well as increasing investments in technological innovations.”
Research from Catalyst published in 2016 notes that in EU countries, only 24% of auto manufacturing employees are female, with the UK showing the lowest percentage at 16%. In wholesale/retail sales and repair, women only hold 16% of the positions available. In this instance, Italy shows the lowest percentage overall at just 14%. Overall, they report that women are under-represented across the industry as a whole, though especially in entry-level and senior management positions. With this trend toward hiring more women, we’re likely to see these numbers increase over the next five-to-ten years. Auto News reports that, since they first began reporting on leading women in the European Auto Industry in 2008, many changes have taken place (with regard to female employment). They note that, “today, two women run European automotive brands, and nearly every brand in the region has women in key positions”.
TREND: WOMEN PREFER SMALLER, MORE ECONOMICAL VEHICLES
Since more women are driving and buying cars, sales statistics show that they prefer smaller, more economical vehicles. Research from ACEA shows that 40% of passenger cars sold in Europe in 2017 were identified to be sized “small”, with an additional 27.7% being sized “lower-medium”. A separate report from ACEA showed that the demand for passenger cars in Europe increased by 4.7% in the first half of 2017 alone. Although most major European markets saw this increase (including Italy, Spain, Germany, and France), in the UK, there was actually a decline in new car registrations. This is not surprising considering the anticipated 2018 Brexit, which industry experts report will cause a significant drop in UK new car sales. Since the UK is the second largest new car sales market in the EU (Germany ranks first), the entire remainder of the European region is expected to see an uptick in new car sales.
Diesel is still the most popular fuels for new cars in Western Europe, with ACEA reporting that “roughly 45% of buyers [are] opting for this fuel type”. Green Car Congress notes that this fuel type was more popular with younger buyers (under 39) than older (ages 40+). Auto News reports that there is uncertainty in the German market for diesel vehicles, largely due to the current debate on banning the fuel in that country. Alternatively, a separate report from ACEA shows that all five major markets showed double-digit increases in the demand for alternative fuel vehicles. Additionally, research showed that more women (than men) were interested in electric vehicles.
TREND: INCREASED RESEARCH & USE OF SOCIAL MEDIA IN POTENTIAL AUTO-BUYING SEARCHES
Since more women are getting licenses and buying cars, and more women (than men) use social media, it only makes sense that social media analytics show increases (globally) of these avenues being used to search for new and used cars to purchase. BrandWatch notes that, in the UK, “38% of consumers consult social media before a car purchase,” and that “by 2020, 40% of new car buyers will be millennials, of which 88% [will] use the internet to research [a potential] car purchase”. With Deloitte reporting that most potential car buyers research their purchase for at least three months before making a decision, that’s a lot of time to spend on finding reviews on social media and via other online avenues.
As noted previously, research from eMarketer (as noted in Driving Sales) shows that women prefer less technical-speak – and look more for information “that tells them something about the vehicle they can’t learn from a list of specs”. Since this type of information is most often found in personal stories or reviews, like those found in social media chatter, and less likely to be found on manufacturer or dealer websites, this shows a distinct shift in car-searching behavior.
The report also notes that women show higher engagement when words like “drive, trip, comfortable, [and] handling” are used because of the relatable way the experience of driving a particular vehicle is described. Additionally, women connect with words like “compassion” and “smiles” more frequently – indicating they hold the positive connection with dealership personnel as more important than men do. However, the research also shows that women are more afraid than men of going to dealerships because they believe they won’t be treated with the same respect that a man would be treated.
In Europe, more women than ever before are driving and purchasing vehicles, as well as using social media to research before they buy. Though fewer are taking advantage of the advanced technologies provided in their new vehicles. In light of the changing face of the market, auto manufacturers and dealers are hiring more women and focusing their advertising more specifically on the female demographic.