WOMEN AND AUTOS: The engine of the auto economy

January 30, 2013

If the first automobile were invented today, a German woman would be the patent holder. This is because Bertha Benz used her dowry to fund the development of her husband Karl’s Motorwagen. And she didn’t stop there. In order to prove to her husband that his invention was worthwhile, she took the world’s first road trip – a 66 mile trek to her mother’s house.

Beginning with Bertha Benz, women have had a deep impact on the auto industry and continue to have a significant role in shaping its future. From invention and finance to design and sales, women have always played a key role in the auto industry’s growth, and now appear to be overtaking men in both their presence on the road and their purchasing role in showrooms.

Yet, despite their footprint throughout the industry, females account for less than a third of attendees at auto shows. These shows represent the best opportunity to peruse a wide selection of vehicles and get first-hand exposure to new vehicle technologies – features women will likely be deciding to purchase in the near future.

In recent years, women have reversed the driving gap. There are now more licensed female drivers on the road than male drivers.1

Considering women purchase 60 percent of all new cars and 53 percent of used cars, females are clearly the most significant force in the automobile marketplace today.2 And their influence is growing because women are the fastest growing segment of buyers. For instance, female millennials, age 22 – 30, are outpacing their male counterparts by 20 percent in vehicle purchases.3

All told, women influence a whopping 85 percent of all car purchases – that’s worth more than $80 billion annually.4 Add in expenditures on maintenance, repairs, and other services, and women control about $300 billion worth of vehicle spending.5 With figures like those, it’s no wonder that 86 percent of women list reliability as a very significant factor in purchasing their next vehicle.

Polling tells us the second most significant factor for women is vehicle safety. Historically, vehicle safety has always been at the forefront for women, which might have been what led Florence Lawrence, a silent film star, to develop two of the most important safety inventions still with us today – both the turn signal and brake signal.

And it was another female, Mary Anderson, who first thought of the windshield wiper – for which she was granted a patent in 1903. In today’s world, 62 percent of women polled ranked safety as a “very significant” factor in determining their next vehicle purchase – that’s nearly 20 percentage points higher than men.

The same percentage of women believe technological advances are making cars safer. Considering 93 percent of vehicle accidents are caused by human error, women have all the more reason to attend an auto show to discover all of the driver assist technologies and features to better safeguard themselves and their loved ones.

It’s clear that women have been at the forefront of the auto economy from the very first Motorwagen to the newest generations of drivers pulling off the dealer lots today. And there’s little reason to think that trend is changing any time soon.

 

BY THE NUMBERS

  • 60% OF ALL NEW VEHICLES ARE PURCHASED BY WOMEN

  • 53% OF ALL USED CARS ARE PURCHASED BY WOMEN

  • 85% OF VEHICLE PURCHASES ARE INFLUENCED BY WOMEN

  • $300 BILLION SPENT BY WOMEN ON VEHICLES ANNUALLY

  • 105.7 MILLION WOMEN HAVE DRIVER’S LICENSES – 1.4 MILLION MORE THAN MEN

  • 62% OF WOMEN RANK SAFETY AS VERY SIGNIFICANT

 

1 Joan Lowy, “More Women Have Driver's Licenses Than Men, Reversing A Long-Time Gender Gap On US Roads,” Associated Press, 11/12/12

2 NBC/Universal Poll, 2009; Jim Montavalli, “Women Are Deeply Involved in Car Buying, So How About Respect from Dealers,” CBSNews.com, 12/15/09

3 Steve Finlay, “Millennials Misunderstood,” WardsAuto, 9/1/11

4 Maddy Dychtwald, “Influence: How Women's Soaring Economic Power Will Transform Our World for the Better,” Voice, 2010

5 Maddy Dychtwald, “Influence: How Women's Soaring Economic Power Will Transform Our World for the Better,” Voice, 2010