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Home arrow Market Research Findings arrow Automotive arrow Improved dealership is key to driving car purchases
Improved dealership is key to driving car purchases PDF Print E-mail
Written by ACNielsen   
21 Nov 2006

Improved dealership is key to driving car purchases

Accompanied Test-Drive can help clinch the deal

Shanghai, Nov 17, 2006 – In parallel with the continued growth in automotive sales in China has been the emergence of a group of savvy car buyers with strong opinions and knowledge about cars, which requires a much more sophisticated marketing and communications strategy, according to latest ACNielsen Automotive research findings.

ACNielsen recently interviewed car buyers in China, India, Indonesia and Malaysia as part of a region-wide qualitative DeltaQual automotive study, designed to shed light on their decision making process and the rules and triggers that come into play when choosing to purchase a new car.

“We found a distinctive mindset among Chinese consumers in their perceptions toward vehicles, underpinned by traditional Chinese culture, but clearly undergoing an evolution in recent years”, said Philippe Coquelle, Director of Automotive Research, ACNielsen China.

“Traditionally, Chinese consumers have had a strong preference for a notchback, or a three-box car, which is considered more ‘aesthetically acceptable’, but these days, convenience and larger storage space have made the two-box hatchbacks increasingly attractive to car buyers.”

While European and American cars continue to be deemed top notch and associated with superior quality, Japanese and Korean cars are increasingly popular among Chinese consumers, who perceive them to be stylish and excellent in their ‘detailing’.

Chinese car brands such as Chery QQ or Brilliance have also started to gain more share of mind, according to the ACNielsen study.

A Diversified Consumer Market

"The Chinese car market is not homogeneous, and consumers have strong and diverse opinions about cars and how they go about buying one, and each consumer group requires a tailored marketing and communications approach,” Coquelle said. “Taking what we refer to as Enthusiasts as an example, they are trendsetters who lead the market and should be targeted as Opinion Leaders”, said Coquelle.

The study also noted the increasing importance of female car buyers, currently estimated as responsible for 13 percent of car purchases in China.

Through in-depth interviews with car buyers, ACNielsen uncovered a decision-making ‘funnel’ and the triggers behind the brand they subsequently purchase. The study found consumers’ consideration of the car brand starts long before they actually consider buying one.  Their first encounter with the vehicles impacts the rules they form for the later purchase and for this reason, car marketers must look beyond their immediate target market, ie not only those they consider ‘qualified’ potential buyers. 

Communicating with Chinese Consumers

“To succeed in as massive a market as China, where consumer attitudes are fast-changing, is never an easy task”, said Coquelle. “However there are some communications vehicles or approaches that carmakers can look to when formulating their marketing strategy”.

ACNielsen’s recent studies have found the Internet to be a powerful communications tool, not only as a source of practical information, but also as a way for car manufacturers to monitor and minimize any negative word-of-mouth that may be ‘out there’ on the ‘Net.  According to previous ACNielsen studies, up to 74 percent of the online population obtain car news via the Internet.

Consumers go online to check product features, share or validate information on specific models or brands, and to look for discount prices, ACNielsen studies show.

About 45 percent of potential buyers consider automotive magazines a good source of information. Other sources include recommendations from existing owners (34%), advertising (26%), and auto shows (22%).

While car dealerships play a major role in the car-selling process in other markets, they seem to be underplayed currently in China, with only 16 percent considering dealers as a good source of information.

According to Coquelle, dealerships have an opportunity to play a bigger role in bridging the relationship between the car brand and its buyers. One key aspect manufacturers can improve through the dealership is with the Test-Drive.which is the most direct way for buyers to experience the car and trigger their choice of one car over another.  A positive test drive experience is essential in contributing to the final deal.

About ACNielsen

ACNielsen, a VNU business, is the world’s leading marketing information provider. Offering services in more than 100 markets, the unit provides measurement and analysis of marketplace dynamics and consumer attitudes and behavior. Clients rely on ACNielsen’s market research, proprietary products, analytical tools and professional service to understand competitive performance, to uncover new opportunities and to raise the profitability of their marketing and sales campaigns. To learn more, visit


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