What Can Women Expect Buying a Car: An Interview with Anne Fleming

Today I have the pleasure of interviewing Anne Fleming, president of Women-Drivers.com.  Anne is one of the nation's leading consumer advocates for women buying cars and also a good friend of mine. I wanted to know how car buying has changed for women in recent years and what women could expect these days when buying a car.

1.       Anne, we all know men and women approach things in different ways.  When choosing a type of car, what factors do you see women focus on that may differ from men?

We hear from women all over the US, and the top factors that are important to women when purchasing a vehicle rank this way:

Price

56.44%

Brand/Model Reputation

49.65%

Style/Design

47.07%

Dealership Service

39.23%

Safety

31.73%

Space/Functionality

28.22%

Warranty

24.36%

Technology

23.89%

Color

21.43%

Green/MPG

13.00%

These percentages may add up to more than 100% because respondents can submit multiple answers.

 

2.       I’ve heard you mention in the past that women are often uncomfortable dealing with high-pressure car salesmen alone.  As a result, they may opt to bring a male family member or friend with them to the dealership.  Do you think this is changing?  Are women are becoming more comfortable buying cars on their own these days?

Certainly, women have more options today to buy a vehicle and not have to participate in the “full, traditional model” that you are referring to. For example, women can buy a car on-line, they can buy through different internet models; heck, they can hire a broker to buy their vehicle. Still, less than 4% of all vehicles are bought exclusively on-line.

However, the data we get from women shows that when browsing, 57.2% of women go to the dealership by themselves. Of those that go with another person, 73.6% are accompanied by a man.

When actually purchasing a car, 45.2% go by themselves. Of those that go with another person, 80.4% are accompanied by a man. This shows that women want to level the playing field and they believe that they will get receive a better deal and possibly better financing with another person there on her behalf, most notably a man.

To clarify, in many cases women are buying a car with her partner. But, the latest Pew Report says that 51% of American adults are married, so there are a lot of women buying cars without their married partner, also.

 3.       Now that everyone can access the Internet with their smart phones, what behavioral changes do you see occurring at the dealership?  What are people using their smart phones for?

Smart phones afford customers two things: immediate access to researching vehicles and dealer reviews. In January, JD Power reported that one-third of all buyers are researching dealer review sites like Edmunds.com, DealerRater.com and Women-Drivers.com to determine where they should go to buy a car. It is estimated by 2014, half of all buyers will use these sites.

Women – heck, women and men are not interested in the old model of being “held hostage” at the dealership with the back and forth and not having a good experience.

4.       Some men (like myself) determine the type of car they want and then determine where they buy from based solely on price.  Do women approach selecting a dealership the same way?  What are the main factors that determine where women will buy?  And how much does price weigh in on the decision?

As we said in Q1, price is the top reason. With divorce rates so high, women delaying marriage and 40% of children being born today to unwed mothers – being a single mom, or the breadwinner, or being on a budget factors into why price is so imperative.

Once price is determined, women begin looking at 3 or four different models to hone in on.

 5.       I love the idea of “women-friendly” dealerships.  How does that factor in for those ladies that want to negotiate over email or phone before getting to the dealership?

The designation a “Certified Women-Friendly Dealer” is good for the buyer and for the dealership alike. It saves women time by going to dealerships that are certified. Anyone shopping or researching the internet will see the ‘certification’ because these dealers receive great SEO rankings.

That’s what dealers want – they work hard by making great customer-centric service available to women consumers, then receive positive reviews from those consumers, and are rewarded with extraordinary SEO and marketing tools. The net-net for those dealers is more leads, walk-ins and sales.

 6.       You’ve created the WSI score as a rating system for car dealerships.  How has this changed dealership and car salesmen behavior?

On our site dealers are rated by WSI, or Women Satisfaction Index® which is the score of the review, from a 1.0 to a 5.0 (the highest). Dealers that maintain a cumulative WSI of 3.8 – 5.0 are Certified.

When the site launched in 2009, dealerships shyed away from brand reputation sites.

Today, however, most dealers embrace and optimize review sites like ours. They understand that reviews impact the placement of their dealership through search engine optimization.  Additionally, they recognize that reviews are a consumer expression of satisfaction and want the opportunity to market these reviews. In the January JD Power report, they found that women rate their dealers higher than men, interestingly.

We see the same on Women-Drivers.com. Here are the Top 2012 Auto Brands as Rated by Women.

 

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