By Sandra Bauman
I am in the market for a new car. In fact, I’m overdue. I am an auto dealership’s nightmare customer because I am not a “car person”–it is just a necessity for my life. Partially, this comes from my frugality, but it is also due to a critical lack of time and energy. I have been putting it off because any glimmer of excitement over the idea of having a new car is grossly overshadowed by the torture—yes, torture—of the car buying experience.
There are two things you need to know: 1) I am a market researcher and a woman so it follows that I am an educated consumer. And, 2) in this category, I am a brand loyalist. I am a Ford girl (a super user in automotive lingo). I want a new Ford Explorer XLT and I want to trade in my 15-year-old (but very well cared for) Ford Explorer XLT. You wouldn’t expect this to be a long, drawn-out process. But I have spent literally hours on the phone with Customer Service Representatives—all women who clearly wield no power at the dealership—and made two separate trips to two separate dealerships with a certified check in my pocket only to have the sales managers torpedo the deals—both times. Both times the experiences were right out of the how-to-kill-a-deal handbook. (Dealership #1: “Are you the negotiator?” Excuse me, sir, but do you see anyone else here?!? Dealership #2: Promised deal by phone evaporates by over $800 during my drive to the dealership. So sorry, we didn’t mean it.) And both times I came home feeling like I needed to shower the smarmy off of me. Nearly three months later I am still driving my old car and I don’t have a plan for my next step.
So, I’m regrouping because I cannot bring myself to spend money at either of my local dealerships after the games they put me through. And, while I know that the dealership is only an extension of Ford—it’s not really Ford’s fault, is it?—it’s a pretty insurmountable obstacle between me and continued brand passion.
Would it surprise you to know that, according to The Next Web:
“Women make or influence 85% of all purchasing decisions, and purchase over 50% of traditional male products, including automobiles…?”
It shouldn’t, because it’s been a heavily discussed social media topic for the last several years. So why aren’t the dealerships on board? Why isn’t Ford Motor Company proactively partnering with/training its dealers how to work with women buyers? Remember Saturn? This was a whole brand dedicated to improving the buying experience and that was two decades ago. Why has no one figured out how to do this profitably yet?
A word of advice to Ford—and all you automotive brands out there—get to know your buyers. According to MSN Money, while “Many men revel in the gamesmanship of car buying…many women just aren’t interested in [that].” Yes, exactly. Embrace this insight. I DO NOT have time for these games and you are making me really mad. Here are some nuggets about women and car buying from Women-Drivers.com:
- Before women go shopping, they look for credible opinions in order to make informed buying decisions to save precious time. –Yes, check.
- Women pay as much as $1,353 more to avoid negotiating the price of a car. –Yes, check.
- Women make up just 8% of the 231,000 auto salespersons. –Wow, really? No wonder.
FastCompany reports that consulting firm Continuum “spent a lot of time shopping with women in all sorts of venues, in all corners of the globe. And from this experience, patterns emerge. When making decisions, especially for the purchases that affect more than just her, women weigh a few common factors in their minds: time, money, and well-being. The companies that address these needs have an opportunity to create a customized offering and a far better shopping experience.” –Here, here.
In the meantime, I’m taking a break. I’ll probably end up with Ford I want (because I DO like the brand), but I’m not sure I’ll be jazzed about it until I can get some distance between me and the buying experience.