What Your Car Says to the Opposite Sex
by Jacqueline Mitchell
Thursday, March 27, 2008
Can't seem to catch the attention of that certain someone? You may be driving him or her away before you even open your car door.
That's because your ride says more about you than you might imagine.
A man pulling up to a ritzy restaurant in a two-seater Porsche 911 sends a signal that he is a determined, highly successful, middle-aged professional. The guy behind the wheel of an Audi RS4 sedan is confident, shopping on Rodeo Drive or making deals on Wall Street.
Women aren't exempt from scrutiny though. A female in a Lexus RX 350 sport utility vehicle is most likely a college-educated professional who is married with children. But the woman driving a Jaguar XF is a lover of luxury who is just as likely to be single or married.
"The XF is extremely modern," says Anne Clinard, a Jaguar North America spokeswoman. "It says that I am an individual who has a strong sense of self and appreciates the finer things in life. People know you have discerning tastes and that you are not afraid to stand out and drive something different than what your neighbors may drive."
Behind The Brands
Automakers like Jaguar know that a car is more than transportation for some; it is an extension of the driver's image.
That's why we turned to them to see what the market's most popular cars for men and women, according to J.D. Power and Associates, say about their drivers. Our findings come from automaker-supplied buyer demographics.
"This new generation of consumers looks at a vehicle as a piece of clothing," says Wesley Brown, partner in Iceology, a Los Angeles-based consumer research and trend consulting firm. "We have clients who say 'My BMW or Jeep is the last thing I put on before I go out.' They are concerned with the color of their iPod and spend $200 to $300 for cool-looking sunglasses."
Characteristics that are high on the luxury list for women are safety, reliability, and value. Men prefer the exact opposite; performance, power, and style are among their top choices.
Take the Porsche 911. Its buyers are 86.8 percent male with the average age of 51 and median income of $390,000. They are driven to succeed and like to reward themselves for achieving their goals.
"These buyers are determined," says Tony Fouladpour, a company spokesman. "They made up their minds a long time ago that they would have this car when they arrived at a certain stage in life."
If you are looking for love, you may want to steer clear of women driving SUVs. Mike Michels, a Lexus/Toyota spokesman, says 66 percent of the RX 350 SUV buyers are female, and 78 percent are married. Their median age is 55 and they have a median income of $141,000. About 25 percent of female buyers have children under age 18, suggesting that many are empty-nesters.
"They are successful, demanding people who are able to buy nice things but are buying them for all the right reasons," says Michels. "They want luxury, sophisticated, and fun things. It has to be safe and functional. They don't make frivolous purchases."
Automakers compile such demographics in order to better market their products to certain populations. They also help engineers and designers create vehicles that will attract certain buyers.
"It helps to know your customer," says Rob Moran, a Mercedes-Benz spokesman. "It helps us to be more of a rifle shop than a shotgun. It helps us to offer our audience programs that capture their lifestyles and events that interest them."
This inside information is also helpful in reaching out to groups that buy the car, but in smaller numbers. Volvo is happy that women like their products, especially women with children who place safety at the top of their automotive wish lists. But Volvo also broadens it sales reach to single women who rate safety high on their shopping lists despite not having children.
The company is known for its safe, family-friendly vehicles, but has extended its marketing efforts over time to attract younger, single women by designing more contemporary-styled vehicles that are curvier and less boxy. The Volvo S40, with a base price of $24,365, has helped Volvo reach single women who want safety in a more stylish package at an affordable price.
Pictures at: In Pictures: What Your Car Says To The Opposite Sex - Forbes.com