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Is the Auto Industry a Woman’s Nation?

As you know, I closely followed Maria Shriver’s special report: A Woman’s Nation Changes Everything, on NBC this past week. Among other topics related to females, Shriver discussed how women’s purchasing power affects bottom line. Sounds like She-conomy, right?

Jody DeVere, who I met on Twitter and got to know even better at the 2009 Marketing to Women Conference in Chicago, created www.AskPatty.com, a safe environment for women to get automotive advice tailored to their needs. She’s been following California’s first lady too. In fact, Jody was invited to be on the panel of a live blogger podcast for the online launch of A Woman’s Nation. It’s a privilege to host her as a guest blogger.

jody-devere_webs300_4431Guest Blogger: Jody DeVere,  CEO and President of AskPatty.com

As a She-Conomy reader, I’m sure you know that women control 85 percent of all brand purchase decisions. Believe it or not, that number holds true when it comes to cars.

Women influence more than 85 percent of all automotive sales in U.S. households.

Beyond the initial purchase of a vehicle, women comprise 50-65 percent of the customer base at service centers and buy 60 percent of all passenger tires. According to the Yankelovich Monitor, even though females are the majority of the market, 74 percent say they feel misunderstood by automotive marketers.

Bottom line: women say the experience of visiting an automotive retailer is akin to having a tooth pulled. I’m convinced this is a result of the disproportionately low number of females who work in the auto industry.

For example, the promotion of Susan Docherty to General Motors’ top U.S. sales position last week marks the first time a woman has held that position in the automaker’s 101-year history. Docherty’s promotion means she will become the first and only woman on CEO Fritz Henderson’s newly formed nine-person executive committee. Susan is now the highest ranked woman working at an automaker. Congratulations, Susan! (It’s about time, GM!)

Although this is a reason to celebrate, Susan is only one of the 13 percent of women top executives in the auto industry. That statistic stands in staunch contrast to findings on overall employment listed in the Shriver report. “For the first time in our history, half of all U.S. workers are women. Mothers are the primary breadwinners or co-breadwinners in nearly two-thirds of American families,” it states. So why are there so few females in leadership positions?

Unfortunately, in the past five years I have witnessed several top automaker executive women leave for non-automotive industries.

To combat their low representation, women’s automotive associations and organizations have sprung up or grown tremendously. Scholarships to fund programs for women seeking automotive careers in various roles are growing. Still, less than 1 percent of all National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence certified technicians are women. In new car dealerships, women are about 20 percent of the overall employee count and only 7 percent are working in front-line management, sales or service advisor positions. Less than 7 percent of new car dealerships are woman-owned and operated.

Automotive retailers frequently ask me how they can find and hire more women.
They tell me women just aren’t applying for the positions and they want to hire more females. The answer is simple. It starts with creating a culture where women customers and potential employees feel safe and comfortable. Offering not only full time employment but flexible work place policies such as part time, work-at-home, team selling, job sharing for everyone not just women will increase your odds of hiring more women. After all, work/life balance is an issue for everyone.

To become an “Auto Industry Women’s Nation,” the high percentage of men at the helm need to grasp that women consumers hold the automotive purse strings. They need to work to create a culture that embraces female employees, create an environment where women feel comfortable spending their dollars and reach them with advertising campaigns that are “spot on.”

I strongly recommend automotive retailers address their female audience or lose market share to competitors who are speaking to the rapidly changing landscape and purchasing power of women. ~ Jody DeVere

Thank you so much Jody for your  helpful insight into these automotive related issues. And just to recap, I have highlighted several of the significant statistics below.

Female purchasers in the car industry:

  • Women influence more than 85 percent of all automotive sales in U.S. households
  • Women comprise 50-65 percent of the customer base at service centers
  • Women buy 60 percent of all passenger tires
  • 74 percent of women say they feel misunderstood by automotive marketers

Female employment:

  • For the first time in history, half of all U.S. workers are women
  • Only 13 percent of top executives in the auto industry are women
  • Less than 1 percent of all National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence certified technicians are women
  • In new car dealerships, women account for about 20 percent of the overall employee count
  • Only 7 percent of those working in front-line management, sales or service advisor positions are women
  • Less than 7 percent of new car dealerships are woman-owned and operated
Data Sources: •M2W Fast Facts: http://m2w.biz/fast_facts.php •Road & Travel Female Buyer Study: http://www.roadandtravel.com/company/marketing/femaledemo.html •National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence http://www.ase.com/ •National Automobile Dealers Association http://www.nada.org/Publications/NADADATA/ •National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence http://www.ase.com/ •Tire Review Magazine http://tirereview.com/ •Forbes Auto ‘Most Influential Women in the Auto Industry’ http://www.askpatty.com/page.php?ID=1701Title=AskPatty

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Stephanie Holland is President and Executive Creative Director for Holland + Holland Advertising, Birmingham, Alabama. Working in an industry that is dominated by men, she is one of only 3% of the female creative directors in the country. Stephanie works mostly with male advertisers, helping them successfully market to women. Subscribe to She-conomy by Email
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6 Responses

  1. Thanks for a great article. Jody is awesome and she’s very well respected in the auto circles, so I hope a lot of people pay attention here. It still amazes me the auto industry (and a few other industries) don’t market smarter to women decision makers. Yes, companies, women are considered decision makers, not just influencers. I’ll be sure to share this information with my small business audience.

    John Sternal
    @sternalpr
    @understndnmrktg

  2. I agree with your comments. We have many clients in the auto aftermarket and, in fact, I am at AAPEX, the large industry trade show as I write this. We have initiated several woman focused campaigns for our car care center clients . Initially, this was a tough sell in this male dominated industry but the results were impressive and now the doubters are converted. We are are always preaching that the service centers should create a woman friendly environment in their waiting areas and, of course, that their customers, male and female, are always treated fairly and with respect.

    Currently we are attempting to initiate some social media outreach to women on their behalf but here we are encountering resistance that is more age driven. The owners tend to be well over 40 and don’t understand web 2.0. We will win this battle as well, however.

  3. I think the biggest problem, at least on the front lines at most dealerships I’ve worked with, is that even when a woman applies and interviews for a sales position, they are trained and taught a way of selling that is just too old school and not something they are comfortable with. Being a man, I don’t know exactly how to change this but it is indeed a huge problem. You basically are putting a potentially successful sales rep in a position to fail from day one. And when that happens, most management just see it as “not being able to cut it” in that environment. These guys are inside a small building 50 to 70 hours per week. They don’t have much of a life and what happens within those four walls is all they know. It’s very, very frustrating sometimes!

  4. […] latest commercials aimed at women. Finally, advertisers realize that in order to appeal to the 85% of women who influence automotive decisions, they’re going to need to show some […]

  5. When we were passing the test to become Women Certified business development agents, we learned that financial service and automobile sales persons were the primary culprits that completely disserved women and didn’t recognize their roles in the decision and buying process.

  6. Awesome article. I hope that the above statistics will encourage the automotive industry to improve their services to women and to help them realize that our business is just as significant as a man’s, regardless of how much we know about cars.

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