What Women Want: Small SUVs, Dealer Delight

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CARS.COM — With respect to all the single ladies, quoth Beyoncé: “If you liked it, then you shoulda put a ring on it.” That’s good advice not just for potential suitors but for car dealerships, as well. Studies show that women continue to gain influence in today’s auto sales market, and if dealerships wish to attract this growing demographic, they may want to work on their game.

Related: Study: Men Want Luxury Cars, Women Want Crossovers

According to a study by MaritzCX, a Utah-based customer experience software and research firm, sales of small SUVs to women rose 34 percent from 2010 to 2015, while increasing only 22 percent among men. Premium SUV sales to women surged 177 percent, the study showed. Moreover, among those female SUV buyers, 40 percent were unmarried.

James Mulcrone, director of research services for MaritzCX, said the growing demographic shift really began to take shape in the 1990s as more women earned advanced academic degrees and achieved financial independence. The trend continues with millennial-generation women, who also have increasingly delayed traditional life-stage decisions such as marriage. Those forces have combined to make women a formidable automotive buying group.

Research shows that women are more drawn to the white-hot small SUV segment in part because of statistically demonstrable differences in the way they shop for cars. Women, he said, are primarily concerned with quality, fuel economy, price, safety features and reliability. Men, by contrast, typically buy based on exterior design, interior style, performance and the overall fun-to-drive factor.

“That’s all wrapped into an equation that says, ‘This is a low-cost-of-ownership vehicle that’s going to last me a long time,’ ” Mulcrone said of women’s car-shopping tendencies.

This latest research came from MaritzCX’s annual New Vehicle Customer Study, which surveys recent retail-market buyers who have been in their new cars for about 90 days about their purchase experience. The sales-weighted data is conducted by model year, and 15,000 buyers were questioned for the portion that yielded the small SUV sales data.

These results led female-focused car-dealer-review service to ponder the question: So what’s the rub? When trying to sell cars to women, the site states, the conventional “best this” or “best that” messages aren’t going to fly.

“That type of superlative language is simply overplayed and noisy,” the site states. “It doesn’t resonate with women and isn’t distinctive. Women do not want to be sold to like they are buying power tools.” made recommendations on how to effectively court female shoppers:

  • Beyond price, advertise the dealership’s “evidence-driven” reputation for service and trustworthiness, reinforcing the idea that they will get a great car from a quality dealer.
  • Tailor dealership offerings to women’s often-busy lives by providing amenities while they wait, such as free car washes and Wi-Fi-equipped workspaces in an aesthetically appointed lounge.
  • Engage female customers in a respectful manner or they will leave and never return.
  • Hire a diversity official to direct the changes needed to market to women.

“Sixty-two percent of women are not confident going to buy a car,” states. “Showcase your store as the place women in your area trust and go first.”

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Former Assistant Managing Editor-News Matt Schmitz is a veteran Chicago journalist indulging his curiosity for all things auto while helping to inform car shoppers. Email Matt Schmitz

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