Automotive Blog

What are women automotive buyers buying?

There appears to be a strong connection between women and the Asian OEMs. Based on the chart below, the collective group of Asian OEMs that include Toyota, Lexus, Honda, Acura, Hyundai, KIA, Nissan, Infiniti, Subaru and Mazda dominate the consecutive top selections across all ethnic groups.  African American women are on the low end of Asian brand affinity with their top seven make model selections coming from this group. Whereas, Asian models represent the top 21 consecutive spots for Vietnamese women. 

Women Vehicle Selections by Ethnic Group

For Asian women, if they're not buying Asian then it's all about the European BMW, Mercedes or Volkswagen models as they appear as soon as the 13th choice for Chinese, Indian and Korean women, and as high as the 22nd selection for Vietnamese women.

The domestic brands appear more attractive to African American and Hispanic women who are the only groups to include domestic offerings in their Top 10 volume choices. The top 10 domestic representatives are the Chevrolet Malibu (#8 for African American women) and the Ford F-Series (#10 for Hispanic women) respectively.

The table below identifies the Top 5 vehicles selected by women for each ethnic group, plus the top European and domestic selections for each group. You will quickly notice the Top 5 list is dominated by Toyota, Honda, Nissan and Hyundai respectively. With Hyundai getting the nod via support from the Korean and African American women.

Women's Top 5 Vehicle Selections by Ethnic Group

This blog screams two things at me as follows:

  1. The Asian OEMs have a formula that is working with women from all backgrounds.
  2. There is almost a monopolistic allegiance between the Asian women and the Asian OEMs.

Which begs the following question:

  • Which European or domestic OEMs will be the first to break the Top 10 volume list with just one of the Asian women groups? 

If I was a betting man, I would wager on Ford, Mercedes, BMW or Volkswagen, but the auto industry has been known to surprise. I'd love to hear your thoughts, comments or ideas about this topic.

Posted by Marc Bland, Product Strategist and Multicultural Marketing Lead, Polk (03.31.2011)

About The Author

Marc 'Bland' is a walking-contradiction of his name since he is indeed a lively and interesting individual. He has a sixth sense when it comes to seeing opportunities where others cannot and making things happen. Marc currently serves as Polk's Head of Diversity & Inclusion. He enjoys the people he works with both inside and outside of the company. When he's not being passionate about his customers' needs, he enjoys fishing, classic cars and home improvement projects. Marc's inspiration in life has been his own hard-working parents as well as his wife and four children – three girls and one boy. Another addition to his family is a 5 lb., 18 inch African Bullfrog named "Puff Daddy" that he enjoys feeding. Someday Marc would love to promote national jazz concerts and fix and flip homes.

During his 10+ years at Polk, Marc has worked in several capacities as a Systems Engineer in the Information Technology group, a Project Manager in Product Development/Quality, a Solutions Consultant in Sales, Manager of the Analytical Solutions team and most recently in a dual role of Product Strategist and Multicultural Marketing Lead. Marc's broad knowledge across the Polk organization, combined with his brief but exciting international automotive assignments in Brazil, Japan, Mexico, Thailand and Singapore, have provided him with invaluable insight and perspective on all things automotive. He lives by the motto, "Learn, Apply & Share" and enjoys contributing to Polk's blog.


Name: Roshan Gomez
Time: Monday, April 4, 2011

How does this data compare with car buying preferences of white (i.e. non-hispanic Caucasian) woman

Name: Matt
Time: Monday, April 4, 2011

Why were Caucasian women left out of the survey? You certainly can't make this statement while excluding caucasian woment.
"The Asian OEMs have a formula that is working with women from all backgrounds."

Name: Marc Bland
Time: Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Roshan and Matt - First, thanks for reading the blog and taking the time to analyze the data. This was the 4th of four blogs focused on Women. The earlier blogs highlighted that Ethinc Women (AA, AS and HS) had higher share of sales compared to their male counterparts. Thus I focused more on these communities in the later blogs. The Top 5 Models for Non-Hispanic Caucasian Women included the same vehicle selections as Chinese, Vietnamese, Indian and Filipino Women as follows: 1 Honda Accord, 2 Honda Civic, 3 Honda CRV, 4 Toyota Camry, 5 Toyota Corolla, 7 Nissan Altima, 8 Hyundai Sonata and 16 Toyota Prius. The top European: VW Jetta rannked 17th and Top Domestic: Ford Escape ranked 9th. Thanks for raising the questions and I look forward to future comments on the blog.

Name: Holly
Time: Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Hi Matt,
I wanted to know how Polk culls this information... how many women do you get data from etc. etc... Like your blog-- I am reporting on this for an industry site... can you send me your email as well?

Name: Marc Bland
Time: Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Holly - Thank you for reviewing the blog and providing comments. At Polk we analyze every U.S. vehicle registration and this series of blogs focused on the "Personal Registration" category that includes individual vehicle purchases and does not include fleet and commercial transactions. Based on this category, Women represent 38.5% of the 8,020,344 known gender new vehicle registrations. I have forwarded my e-mail so we can further discuss. Thanks and I look forward to more comments on the blog.

Name: Chris Stone
Time: Tuesday, April 5, 2011

No surprise here:
As an American married to a first generation Chinese (PRC) woman, I run in the Chinese American social circles in upscale Boulder, Colorado. At the Sunday Chinese School the parking lot is full of Honda Odyssys Toyota Camrys, Honda Accords, Toyota Corollas, Toyota minivans, pretty much in that order. One family we know has 2 Camrys. Not a single American made car out of 200 in the lot. A couple of Mercedes (C, E class) and a couple of BMW (3 series or X5) for those wanting to show off a bit. For the American makes this is very sad as I believe that they essentially have no chance to ever break into this educated, wealthy and growing segment of the US populus. As my wife said, "American cars are for poor people and rednecks."

Name: Marc Bland
Time: Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Chris - Thanks for reviewing and commenting on the blog.
I appreciate the first hand feedback based on your personal experiences. Interesting, the comment you made about Domestic cars breaking into the Asian top 10 is the same challenge I posed to the Domestic Auto Manufactuers ... Which one will be the first to "crack the code" and get a vehicle into Asian top 10? Thanks for sharing and I look for more comments on the blog.

Name: DL
Time: Wednesday, April 6, 2011

I'll also agree with Chris Stone.

It's tough to explain, but it's cultural. I'm Chinese American myself but male, and most of my peers including myself drive imports (Japanese mostly). The stigma that American cars aren't as "good" as Japanese/Imports still holds among Asians, and that Americans don't work as hard as their Asian counterparts (very debatable since most Japanese cars are made here). Also some Asians are aware of Vincent Chin, a Chinese-American in Detroit who was beaten to death by two out of work Chrysler workers who thought he was Japanese, blaming the country for putting them out of work.

I can also speculate that this is due to the fact that the Asians that were present during the 50's-70's drove American cars, and like many other people in America including Caucasians, had bad experiences with them. So Asians were part of the group that helped the Japanese automakers' sales climb during the 80's.

During the 80's-90's, there was a decent amount of Asian immigration. And many of these immigrants, often with little money, usually purchased second hand Toyotas and Hondas.

Personally, I know that things have changed recently, and Toyota and Honda are struggling with their lineups while companies like Ford and Hyundai are right behind, not to mention GM as well. However, even things like the Toyota recall have not swayed many Asians to stop buying imports.

While there are a "lot" less Asians than other ethnic groups, the Japanese always have been able to count on Asians to purchase cars. I guess you can say that Hispanic and African Americans are more patriotic than Asians.

Perhaps the next generation of Asians, will not be so acclimated in buying just imports. This might happen if Toyota and Honda continue to produce mostly blandmobiles, and not the sportier cars they had during the 80s and 90s when they increased marketshare.

Perception with the community would be hard to change, but I won't rule it out. Because China is growing, and GM and Ford are prospering, perhaps some of the newer Chinese will become fond of Buicks here as they do over there. Time will tell if it happens or not.

Name: Marc Bland
Time: Wednesday, April 6, 2011

DL - thanks for reviewing the blog and sharing your first hand experience and observations. I look forward to future comments from yourself and others to continue this EXCELLENT dialogue.

Name: jacob
Time: Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Wow, this is some great information I had no idea that woman wanted Asian cars

Name: Mark Bünger
Time: Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Hi Marc, interesting analysis. However, I agree with the other posters that it would be useful to see the comparison to "control" groups (white women, asian men, all carbuyers). Camry, Accord, Civic, Altima... these are the top models for ALL carbuyers, not just Asians or women. The only models that top them at all are trucks (F-150, SIlverado) which are often small-business vehicles. I would bet that "Asian woman" is not a useful predictor of carbuyer behavior when you account for income, education, state, urban vs rural resident, or other simple demographic factors. One reason I am bringing this up is that we have enough useless racial and gender biases already. As you see in comments above ("Hispanic and African Americans are more patriotic than Asians") people take your data and run off with it in directions you (hopefully) don't want.

So -- can you follow up with a side-by-side with white women, asian men, and white men, etc? Curious minds want to know! Thanks!

Name: Marc Bland
Time: Saturday, April 16, 2011

Mark - thanks for visiting the Polk blog and sharing your thoughts. Althought I don't agree with all your feedback, I will take you up on your suggestion to provide Gender based African American, Asian, Hispanic and Caucasian model preference data side by side in an up-coming blog. Based on prelimary findings, the Asian community (Women and Men) is the only group that does not have a domestic vehicle in their top 10 vehicle choices by volume .... Not even the top selling Ford F-Series which ranks #1 for African American, Hispanic and Caucasian men. What can the domestic automakers do to move into the Asian top 10 models?

Name: DL
Time: Wednesday, April 27, 2011

"Hispanic and African Americans are more patriotic than Asians"...this is more of an observation rather than a take on the data presented.

I meant that mean that it is least likely to see someone Asian behind the wheel of an American branded car. Where I live in LA, is obviously very diverse and where imports dominate the market (blue state). I also live in an area with a very high concentration of Asians, and you just don't see many driving American vehicles. If you do see them in the area, they are usually driven by someone that isn't Asian. I would say Hispanic, because that's the second major group that resides in my area, and of course Caucasian or African American after that.

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