The Golden Flier
The American history website told the story of American suffragists Alice Burke and Nell Richardson taking their cause on the road in 1916. The two women drove across the country in a yellow Saxon automobile, using their car as a moving pulpit to preach about women’s voting rights for more than five months and 10,000 miles. Their “Golden Flier” tour not only helped win the right to vote four years later; it marked the importance of the automobile for women.
Almost 90 years later, women wield the primary buying-power in the auto market, choosing which automobile suit’s their needs. Women purchase 65 percent of all cars sold and influence 80 percent of total car sales, according to Volvo Corporation’s marketing data.
Last year, the top five models purchased by U.S. women were Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Honda Civic, Ford F-Series and Ford Taurus. Statistics provided by Power Information Network (PIN), an affiliate of J.D. Power and Associates, show that women between 40-50 years of age buy the most cars, followed by 30-40-year-olds, the 50-60 age group, women under 30 and lastly women over 60.
Further breakdown of 2003 PIN data indicates, not surprisingly, that the youngest female demographic buys economical, sporty cars, including the Acura RSX, Volkswagen Jetta, Suzuki Forenza, Mitsubishi Lancer, and Volkswagen GTI.
Kafi Drexel Brown, a 27-year-old anchor for News 12 in the Bronx, bought a Toyota Echo for economy and function.
“I’m short. I needed a dashboard I could see over,” said Brown. ” I would have loved a car with more luxury items, but this is the car I could afford. Now I’m glad I have it. It’s easy to park and great on gas mileage.”
Brown said she didn’t think about guys when buying her car, but she did let her boyfriend drive the car after she purchased it. She says his reaction and comments about certain features, such as cruise control, may influence her next purchase, possibly a Toyota Corolla.
“I like Toyota. I just want a heavier car with more pep,” Brown explained.
Big sports utility vehicles seem to be the choice of females between the ages of 30-50. Melissa Church, the research specialist at PIN, said the statistics suggest that women buy SUVs when they have to transport children, their friends, and equipment. Vera Griffin, a physician’s assistant, agrees.
“When I was in my mid-thirties I bought a Suburban,” said Griffin. “The Suburban gave us more space, and more importantly, space between the children. We still have the Suburban, but I recently bought a Mitsubishi Spyder convertible to commute back and forth to work.”
According to Doug Scott, truck group marketing manager, Ford Division, “The Pickup segment has really exploded because of the versatility of the truck. The Super crew cab pioneered the growth to be able to carry five or six people and have the functionality of a pickup bed. The level of refinement in the interior of the Ford F-150 has been compared to a luxury car or SUV. Everyone is interested in not having to compromise.”
Scott goes on to say, “In the pickup segment, ten percent of sales are attributed to females. In the Super crew cab segment, twenty percent of sales are attributed to women.”
These numbers hit harder when you know that the truck segment is the most profitable part of Ford Motor Co. and that Ford sells over 900,000 trucks a year. Using Scott’s figures that would mean women buy 180,000 Ford Super crew cabs a year.
Similarly, the statistics for age 50-59 reveal that ladies lose the vehicle weight at this stage, slimming down to a svelte luxury vehicle, such as an Audi A8, Infiniti M45, Oldsmobile Aurora, Ford Thunderbird, and Jaguar S-Type.
Jaguar agrees. According to James Thomas, Communications Director for Jaguar, North America, “Women buy the cars they been working for all their lives. They feel like they’ve worked for it, saved for it and earned it.”
The surprising statistic showed up when women turned 60 years old. Rather than purchase a smaller, more economical car, they purchased larger luxury vehicles, such as Buick Park Avenue, Lincoln Town Car, Mercury Grand Marquis, Cadillac Deville, and Mercury Monterey.
Eighty-two-year-old Jenny Laddy explained. “When I turned 50 years old, I finally had the kids out of the house. I had always been in love with the 280Z and finally had the money and the freedom to buy it. When I turned 60 years old, my Z got stolen. We decided to buy another car. By that time I had grandkids and I needed something bigger and safer.”
Linda Rawson, a travel agent, used to own a BMW Z3 until she became a grandmother. She now owns a Volkswagen Phaeton, a luxury four-door sedan.
One characteristic common to all female purchasers was shopping for a deal. Five of the 30 cars listed in this report were being discontinued. A couple of the other autos mentioned were cheaper versions of luxury car models built on the same platform.
The cycle of ownership coincides with the cycle of life. When women are young and carefree, most buy sporty, economical cars. As women mature and have children, they buy vehicles fit for a family. When the nest goes empty, women buy the most expensive, sporty cars they can afford. When the grandkids arrive, women abandon their dream cars and opt instead for safety and size.
Just as laws have been rewritten to include women, the design, functionality, and practicality of an automobile is being rewritten to include women, in what was once thought of as a man’s world.