Habits of car buyers vary. Some research a car for months, whereas others make it an impulse buy. When I purchased my recent Camry Hybrid, it was a mix of both. I started wondering on the purchase process,whatisthenorm,how many people actually test drive all the cars on their wish list, etc. How many even have a wish list.
As I got to understand the process better, here are a few commonalities that I noticed -
Brand of the car and a Personal Bias -
Most buyers have a personal bias. This bias may be cultural. Without stereotyping, I can say that Asians are a big fan of Toyotas and Hondas. Then there are the personal bias meaning, it’s not uncommon to find Camaro owners so enamored by the brand that they tend to own Camaros only. Then there are Escalade or Cadillac owners in general that like Cadillac only. I must say that speaks volumes about the brand once you have a lifelong following. In fact I know a close friend of mine who will own nothing but Nissan. Then there are the patriotic few who will always buy ‘American’. Then again, aren’t all cars ‘American-made’ except for a few parts made elsewhere.
I personally have changed camps. I have always been a Honda fan and this was my first Toyota buy when it comes to a new car purchase. This change was lack of Hybrid option in Honda’s sedan category. The Hybrid Civics were too small for my taste.
In today’s recession-happy market, cost of the car is paramount. It is not common to see new car buyers purchase cars strictly by price meaning they are looking for best car they can buy for under $15K or $25K. The carmakers have taken to this trend and priced their cars in a base + packages format. You can get a car for $22K and easily add upto $10K more in options everything from leather, moon roof, alloy wheels and a navigation package. Then based on the package-happy nature of the manufacturer, you also have the techie packages which further allows you to be electronics-happy in your car. A recent Acura, I saw was almost 22nd century car with complete bluetooth support, a navigation system that automatically routes you via the least traffic route, touch screen dash and a rear view camera that allowed you a close-up view of what is not covered in the rear view mirror.
There was once a time when power windows and leather seats was reserved for high end automobiles. In the early 90s, if you were a university student, you would drive a bare bones entry level car and then dream about having a Lexus or Mercedes which would have the ultimate luxuries.
In today’s cars, you see power seats and power windows standard. Leather in some brands is a premium upgrade but most cars are moving in standardizing that option. The new trend I notice these days is the keyless ignition. It has a proximity sensor meaning the key can be in your trouser or jacket pockets, once you step foot in the car, the car recognizes the key, then you press the brake and start key and voila,the car is running as if you have turned it on with your car key.
I often wonder, as small cars slowly adopt such pleasures which were until a decade ago considered premium, what will the premium luxury cars do. To this date, Ford Fusion will allow you to auto-park your car. A car which costs less than $25k giving you such an option, would you’ve seen it coming?
Having said this, all car makers face a paramount challenge. To please the car buyer with a good-value-for money proposition yet keeping the car design sleek and eye-catching. It is this strategy which has brought value carmakers such as Kia and Hyundai to the forefront of the car manufacturing line. How can a lean Kia deliver such a punchy value for money when it makes such task impossible for Ford and GM?
The future of automobiles excites me. I cannot wait what my six month daughter will eventually drive when she is college. Eventually, will all cars look like Tom Cruise drive in Minority Report? Only time will tell.