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Both men and women claim to 'call the shots' on car buying

Survey finds that 72 percent of men and 60 percent of women believe they have the most influence on purchases.

By Douglas Newcomb Feb 5, 2013 12:38PM

When couples are shopping for a new car, the men have long been viewed as the chief decision-makers. For decades, car commercials supported this perception.

Yet more recent sources such as the book "Influence: How Women's Soaring Economic Power Will Transform Our World for the Better," reveal that women influence 85 percent of all car purchases -- worth more than $80 billion each year. And a 2009 NBCUniversal poll showed that women purchase 60 percent of all new cars and 53 percent of all used cars.

But a new survey conducted by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, an industry trade group, reveals that perception does not always jibe with reality when it comes to car buying -- and that maybe women are from Mazda and men are from Volvo. When couples were asked who was “calling the shots” on which car they would ultimately drive home, both men and women claimed to be the one. 


According to this national telephone survey of 5,000 automobile owners, 72 percent of men believe they’re the ones with the most influence on the purchase, while 60 percent of women believe they have most say on which new car to buy. When it comes to deciding on the engine and powertrain, however, 85 percent of men and 47 percent of women believe that men make the decision. But both sexes believe they have the most say -- 70 percent of women and 60 percent of men -- on choosing vehicle options.

“The auto industry is not only a guy's world,” Gloria Bergquist, vice president of public affairs for the Auto Alliance, told MSN Autos. “Women drive sales too, both as purchasers and as influencers."

Research from the Auto Alliance survey also revealed that political leanings may influence gender roles when purchasing a car. In general, self-identified Democrats are evenly divided on whether either the man or woman has the edge in car-buying influence, while self-identified Republicans believe men have more of a say in the purchasing decision.

Other interesting, if not surprising, conclusions from the survey: 55 percent of those polled said women were more likely than men to purchase a navigation system to avoid getting lost, 48 percent think that women use their turn signals more often than men, and 45 percent said that women in general keep their cars cleaner than men.

We're particularly impressed by this statistic, according to the Alliance: Women spend a whopping $300 billion on vehicles annually, and 105.7 million women have driver’s licenses, outnumbering men by 1.4 million.

"Research shows that women put a priority on safety features,” Bergquist said. "But they also fall in love with a vehicle, just as easily as any man."

[Source: Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers]

Feb 6, 2013 12:21PM
In my household , everyone buys what they long as they are paying for it.
Feb 5, 2013 3:06PM

The last car we bought for my wife I took her entirely out of the equasion, at the dealership level.  I told the dealer I wanted a 24 hour test drive, then brought it home and the two of us checked out the car together in the comfort of our own driveway with no sales people, then the next day I went to the dealership and made the deal.  Worked out well.

Feb 5, 2013 3:09PM

" self-identified Democrats are evenly divided on whether either the man or woman has the edge in car-buying influence, while self-identified Republicans believe men have more of a say in the purchasing decision."


I'll probably be flamed for this comment, but that is because democratic men are wussies!

Feb 5, 2013 3:48PM
A savvy automaker would use this data to try harder to incorporate equipment, styling and utility that appeal to both men and women.  I know they already do it to some degree but they could do it more often across their vehicle line-ups.
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