If they walked into a European dealership, American car shoppers would see the same thing they see at home. Not the same vehicles, but the same approach — a base model offering followed by numerous trim levels and incalculable options.
What's going on? Why do we have so many different versions of one vehicle on the market?
In a word: individualization. Intense competition forces companies in every industry to change; to offer products that are more than "one size fits all."
Developing a variety of products to satisfy as many different tastes as possible helps manufacturers target each customer individually. But this is not an easy strategy since costs can quickly escalate.
Gender and age are two of the most important parameters in the area of individualization, affecting the consumers' choice of a vehicle and its use.
To some extent, this reaffirms conventional wisdom. Anyone who's driven on the highway can generalize that middle-age men of a certain economic profile love to have a nice sporty car, while moms with toddlers gravitate toward practical minivans and crossovers.
New technology also plays into the individualization equation. While men are typically more interested in engine and performance, there also is a higher percentage of men interested in advanced technologies. The J.D. Power 2017 U.S. Tech Choice Study also confirmed that significantly more men (42 percent) are interested in self-driving vehicles than women (32 percent).
And although men and women value safety highly, there is a higher percentage of women (44 percent vs. 38 percent men) who say that safety is one of the most important aspects of their new vehicle, according to the J.D. Power 2017 U.S. Initial Quality Study.
That study also shows female drivers are more sensitive to problems with their vehicles than men (105 reported problems per hundred vehicles for women compared to 93 for men). The higher problem count by women relates to vehicle comfort and the usage of its features (i.e., problems with seat material and heating/cooling functions).
Men and women over age 60 play a big role in the trend toward individualization. For this generation, the car is their primary means of remaining independent. The J.D. Power 2017 U.S. Tech Experience Index shows that these older consumers have already accepted and like to use advanced driving assistance systems and crash avoidance.
Deeper understanding of gender and age differences is of great importance for individualization in the automotive industry. Becoming more sensitive to these differences will help automakers get further away from the "one size fits all" concept and develop vehicles with equipment that can be quickly adjusted to different individual demands.