The Gender Divide

As John Gray noted in his book, "Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus," men and women have different needs, wants and expectations when it comes to relationships. It turns out that this is also true for automobiles.

Based on findings derived from its website traffic and survey data from 13,000 respondents, Kelley Blue Book Market Intelligence concluded that male and female car shoppers look for different attributes when shopping for a new vehicle. As a result, there is a definite split on brand preferences when comparing men and women. Kelley Blue Book  (KBB) found that males prefer luxury brands while females tend to favor imports.

Nowhere is that difference more apparent than in the case of the struggling Lincoln brand. Men, it turns out, are 174 percent more likely to consider and shop for a new Lincoln than women. Turning the tables, the car with the greatest gender-based disparity with a bias toward women is Volvo, a European brand. Women are 119 percent more likely to shop for a new Volvo compared to men.

"Like comparing apples to oranges, men and women have different factors of importance when choosing a vehicle, influencing their brand research based on qualities that matter the most to them," says Diana Duque-Miranda, senior manager for Kelley Blue Book Market Intelligence, in a press release. She says older men tend to gravitate towards Lincoln, as many of them grew up with the brand. Conversely, more women choose Asian manufacturers such Honda, Acura and Nissan that are traditionally known for high safety ratings.

In addition to Lincoln, other brands with a male bias are Audi, Jaguar, Scion, Cadillac, Chrysler, Buick, Mercedes-Benz, Smart and GMC. Really, Smart? Other brands more likely to be considered by women included Infiniti, Fiat, Acura, Nissan, Mitsubishi, Honda, Dodge, Kia and Mazda.

Obviously, these rankings do not immediately translate into sales success. Lincoln, as noted, has been struggling with sales. Jaguar sales, on the other hand, are up about 25 percent; Audi sales are up 14 percent. Of the cars strongly favored by men, Chrysler, Scion and Smart have seen sales declines through the first seven months of the year. Cadillac, Buick, Mercedes-Benz and GMC have seen their sales climb.

There were some other interesting twists in the KBB research. It turns out that it’s older men who skewed the results for these brands. Younger men are not nearly as likely to follow the preferences of their fathers, except when it comes to brands that promote “ruggedness.” According to Arthur Henry, manager of KBB Market Intelligence, brands that project a rugged image interest 28 percent of male buyers, regardless of age. However, such brands are also alluring to 19 percent of female buyers.

As for the brands that are more likely to draw women to them, sales of Volvo, Infiniti, Mitsubishi and Kia are down so far this year. Up are Fiat, Acura, Nissan, Mazda, Honda and Dodge.

Other findings: Thirty-three percent of men are more likely to place greater importance of exterior styling compared to 26 percent of women, according to the release. Also, women are more likely to consider affordability (72 percent vs. 50 percent) and fuel efficiency (67 percent for women versus 48 percent for men).

Perhaps when John Gray updates his book, he might want to retitle it “Men Drive Lincolns, Women Drive Volvos.”  The only problem, of course, is that this is far from a universal truth.

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