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Dealerships are concerned about one thing: making sales. But car shopping can be stressful and time-consuming, made worse by pushy salespeople and confusing processes. The auto industry has always been male-dominated, but more women are taking the reins when it comes to buying vehicles. In fact, women now account for 45% of all new car sales. With changing demographics, dealerships need to adjust the way they sell cars.

Why the customer experience is important to women

When a customer leaves a dealership, it’s up to the sales staff to ensure they exit on good terms, whether they made a purchase or not. Last year, surveyed over 5,000 women about their experiences after leaving a car dealership.

Research found that 60% of women who visit a car dealership without purchasing do not plan on returning. The main reason: Women felt they were treated poorly or they didn’t like the way sales staff approached them.

Industry-wide, past research shows that customers visit an average of 1.6 dealerships before buying a new vehicle. When looking at gender-specific data, it’s a different story. Half of women reported they only went to one dealership when they made a purchase; the other half went to an average of three dealerships before purchasing — almost two times the norm. Dealerships are losing sales to nearly half of their customer base.

How women feel about Ford, Honda, and more

Reporting on the top seven U.S. auto brands, Chevrolet, Ford, Jeep, Honda, Nissan, Subaru, and Toyota, women across the board said the top reason they purchased where they did involved the sales advisor. Price and dealer reputation were other important parts of the process, but trusting the sales staff clearly topped the list. Some interesting points:

  • Women felt the most dissatisfied with their sales advisor’s listening skills at Ford and Nissan.
  • They felt the most pressured to buy at Nissan.
  • Women reported feeling the most confident about their purchases at Chevrolet.
  • They felt the most apprehensive at Honda, Subaru, and Toyota.

Buyers who feel confident and relaxed while shopping are much more likely to buy a car. While it’s natural to feel anxious about such a big purchase, the importance that female car shoppers place on trust shows us how influential a salesperson can be if they can boost shoppers’ confidence.

Another piece of the puzzle is whether women frequently car shop alone or accompanied by someone else. Here’s what the research found:

  • The majority of women went accompanied to all seven dealerships.
  • However, at Honda and Nissan, it was almost 50/50.
  • Most accompanied women brought a man.
  • Of the percentage who shopped with another woman, most went to Honda.
  • Toyota made the least amount of sales concerning accompanied female shoppers.

What are the takeaways?

With women now making nearly half of all new car purchases nationwide, it’s clear the auto industry needs to make some adjustments in the way they handle sales. Dealerships need to make sure sales staff can welcome women, listen to their needs, and instill confidence.

The top two reasons women in this study chose to visit a certain dealership were either because they were a returning customer or because friends and family recommended it. Ensuring women feel comfortable shopping at car dealerships will do nothing but increase sales for every car brand.