5th Dec 2008
People want safety and practicality from cars and trucks, not power and sex appeal, says Mintel
Contrary to popular auto advertising, the majority of Americans view their vehicles simply as functional and safe for getting around. A new Mintel report suggests most people feel responsible and practical—not sexy or powerful—while driving.
Mintel asked online survey respondents “How do you feel when you are driving?” and gave them 19 choices for response. Three of the top four feelings chosen by respondents had to do with utility and security: “responsible” (46%), “safe” (40%), and “practical” (37%). (“Happy” was third at 39%.) Near the bottom of the list landed emotions like “powerful” (17%), “fast” (12%), “sexy” (7%), and “rich” (4%).
“We found that for most people, driving a car or truck does not make them feel sexy, fast or powerful,” states Mark Guarino, senior analyst at Mintel. “The problem is that the auto industry is built on selling power, speed and sex. Those images are dynamic, but they don’t necessarily resonate with the majority of utilitarian, safety-focused drivers.”
Mintel found that 60% of survey respondents believe the main purpose of a vehicle is to get from point A to point B, and 55% say the true value of a car or truck is how long it lasts. Only 13% say they want their vehicle to catch other people’s attention.
With turmoil surrounding the American auto industry, Guarino thinks manufacturers need to revisit their product lines and advertising: “The biggest thing Japanese auto manufacturers got right is that most of their vehicles’ main selling point is they can get you from point A to point B most efficiently. American manufacturers need to take a close look at Japanese marketing and design to see how they can incorporate elements of practicality and efficiency.”
Mintel’s survey found that half of respondents currently have an American vehicle as their main car or truck, suggesting a strong base for domestic manufacturers. Because Mintel found more men are responsible for vehicle purchases than women (72% versus 56%), Guarino believes that tailoring automotive retail towards male shoppers is still lucrative. But at the same time, there remains ample growth potential for selling to women.
Mintel also found that the top information sources people use when researching new vehicles are word of mouth, car dealer brochures, consumer buying guides and the Internet. “Shoppers tend towards sources they can trust and those that do not come across as advertising,” states Guarino.
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