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How Covid changed the car buying habits of women

One of the toughest decisions I made of late was selling my Lexus as soon as GCQ was imposed.  It was my favorite car, and I still miss it. But after being stuck in the garage for four months, I realized that I don’t really need a personal vehicle and can always opt to use our family Fortuner for errands I must do myself anyway.

Because we can’t go out as we used to, my designer bags, clothes, and shoes have been hardly touched. The most used items in my wardrobe have become my house clothes and beachwear.  I stopped stalking the Instagram accounts of my favorite designers and stores.  

Mirroring this change, some women might have felt the same for cars. 

Pre COVID, the primary consideration of having a personal car was because my husband already had one.  Forget that I rarely drive. The “good on paper” reason is that I needed a car when all our other cars were busy. I try avoid driving myself because nothing beats just going down in front of Rustan’s, buying what you need, and calling the driver when you want to leave.

But during Covid, the kids are all at home, my husband and I work from home.  And with government restriction on kids going out, the need for cars was severely lessened so I sold my car thinking that when it gets busy again, I will just buy a new one. Now that we are starting to go out again, buying a new vehicle is slowly creeping into my mind.  I asked myself, what has changed in terms of what women want in terms of car purchase? 

As a mother and entrepreneur 

Personally, as a mother of a big family with five kids, three of whom are below the age of 10, I would probably still get an SUV. I would love to see a car with air filtration and everything touchless, entry, boot, etc. I would appreciate a sunroof to have added ventilation without the chance of someone sneezing while my windows are open.  I will probably get something bigger to have enough distance from him if my driver is on the wheel.

For the market, one of the driving reasons for people on the fence in terms of car ownership would be the dangers of traveling via public transports. Besides being a wise option to the daily commute, other uses will also have considered like using it for a home business to supplement your family’s income.

The price point will be the next question. How much can we afford? People will be looking for deals. Next will be brand and reliability since we don’t want to continuously pay for the upkeep.

Other considerations, such as fuel consumption, tech, and safety features, will be written down in a pros and cons column.

What changed?

Since women are usually more price-sensitive as the family’s budget officers, the buying process will be less emotional but more functional.  Since the economy was also affected, people will be considering more utilitarian vehicles so that more people in the household can use it. There will also be an opportunity for possible car ownership sharing between friends since work from home would probably stay. 

To have a holistic approach, I asked some of the women from different car companies how they or their brands are changing and adapting. 

Timmy Naval-de Leon, Integrated Marketing Communications Lead of AC Motors

In general, women have our protective motherly instincts always at the “on” mode, so whenever and wherever we drive or ride cars, we always consider first how safe the vehicle is not only for us but for our loved ones. With that said, my primary consideration is still the safety features.

The second consideration would be the practicality or functionality of the car. Of course, affordability is one of the main factors for the suitability, but it’s how versatile or adaptable the vehicle is that’s more important. I may have to go on different trips for my family members’ diverse needs, such as when I need to do grocery runs or make trips to the pharmacy. I need my vehicle to be as adept in multi-tasking as I am.   

The circumstances will change and new challenges will come. This “new normal” will come and go. But the values we place on items we pay our hard-earned money with—most especially our cars—will remain unchanged: Reliability, functionality, safety, comfort, and thoughtful and consistent aftersales service. Of course, the designs will change, and so will the prices—those things we cannot predict with certainty. But in the future, whatever circumstance we’re in, women will always value brands that value them and their family.

Elijah Sue Marcial, Vice President for Marketing Services Department of Toyota Motor Philippines

Before the pandemic, the vehicle’s general usage is mainly daily commute to work or running errands for the family.  Stuck in traffic, key features appreciated are comfort and convenience features, as well as fuel efficiency.  When stuck in heavy traffic, entertainment features are also a top favorite, so an audio sound system is necessary.

During the pandemic, we observed that women prioritize features directly related to safety, such as Toyota Safety Sense, that will help accident prevention.  They want to lessen the chance of contracting illness, so contactless features such as keyless or smart entry and voice-activated commands are now appreciated more than ever.  To address this in terms of the buying process, we beefed up our online communication and tools like a virtual showroom, chatbot, finance calculator, online vehicle inquiries and service appointments, and of course, Virtual Product Launches.

We also see women spending more on essentials rather than aesthetics.  Moms really like added features in a Toyota vehicle such as UV light, air filtration, and interior detailing. And because the cost will always be a significant factor, we also activated programs that will help car buying seamless.  Toyota Financial Services expanded its financing products with more flexible payment options like Kinto One Car subscription and Balloon Payment Plus. Toyota Certified Used Cars enhanced their car sourcing to support increased demand for entry-level second-hand cars.  

Toyota carefully considered the needs of customers and decided to go ahead with product launches.  The Wigo and Vios were launched at the pandemic height and supported the uptrend in demand for entry-level and affordable cars.  Fuel efficient Corolla Cross also gave an option for a safe and fuel-efficient vehicle with its Toyota Safety Sense, hybrid technology, and an agile crossover body.  The last two months highlighted our multi-tasking and versatile commercial vehicles, Hilux, and Fortuner.  With good load strength and ample space, they attract women who want to start a small business that needs pop-up stores or delivery or accommodate more passengers with better seating capacity.

Lyn Buena, Executive Vice President and Director of MG Cars Philippines 

Filipinos, in general, especially women, are astute car buyers. They do the proper research, examine as many options as possible, and arrive at a consolidated consensus, usually involving friends and family members before a car buying decision is made. I expect this conscientiousness to be further heightened in the time of the pandemic and even after.

Based on a recent study, women rely more on digital information when seeking information about various products they want to purchase. They value word-of-mouth and trust other consumers who post their experiences about the product/service they are seeking.  

It’s also vital that the brand could transition from physical to online platforms and showed resilience and community engagement during uncertainty. So in the case of MG, we introduced a host of new aftersales complements; MG Live Chat Support Service & MG Online Garage for online vehicle consultation and remote vehicle diagnosis over video chat and home repair service.

In terms of vehicle features, because we have been at home and away from family members, relatives and friends for almost eight months, revenge travel will probably set in when the pandemic is controlled, and travel limitations ease up. Vehicles offering more seating capacities and comfortable features will probably score more points and cars with efficient fuel consumption.

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