Shifting perspectives

As buying demographics change, so too must OEMs

Jim Farley, Ford Motor’s executive vice president-global marketing of sales and service, made some interesting observations during his keynote speech at the 2013 New York International Auto Show last month. These observations should command the attention of the trucking industry even though they were aimed mainly at the light vehicle market.

For starters, though baby boomers are expected to continue wielding the greatest influence on the light vehicle market for years to come, Farley pointed to shifting preferences among women, Hispanics and “Millennials” that are inexorably reshaping the vehicle landscape.

Perhaps the most powerful trend is the rising consumer power of women globally, he said. “More than 1 billion women will enter the middle class globally by 2020, and many will be buying vehicles for the first time,” Farley stressed. Why? Rapid urbanization is drawing more women into cities all over the world, where they are trading in agricultural work for careers in business and other professions. In fact, women buyers are outpacing men for the first time ever in the U.S., Farley said.

Meanwhile, Hispanic households are becoming increasingly affluent in this country, with a 126% increase in Hispanic households making more than $100,000 a year. On top of that, Hispanic households collectively maintain a total net worth of more than $500 billion in this country, Farley emphasized.

How do such demographic shifts affect the purchase of vocational equipment and tractor-trailers?

Mobile devices are also creating big ripple effects in the vehicle world. “They are significantly reshaping every part of the automotive landscape—from marketing and shopping to the in-vehicle experience,” Farley said. “Most of us recognize that mobile devices are a power enabler for customers, putting them in control of the shopping process and changing their expectations around connectivity.”

Almost one in seven people worldwide now own a smartphone, significantly influencing the auto industry, pointed out Farley, not only in terms of what technology OEMs put into their vehicles but how said vehicles are spec’d, bought and sold in the first place.

Again, how does this technological trend line affect trucking?

Farley believes the greatest impact is on the growing consumer focus on fuel economy. Now the top consideration for vehicle purchases, fuel economy interest has resulted in a flood of claims and data that are starting to overwhelm the market, he explained. Given the connectivity in cars and the aforementioned proliferation of mobile devices, he stressed that there’s an opportunity here to give consumers better and more relevant data to understand what they can expect in on-the-road fuel economy performance.

“We need to help customers understand the concept of personal fuel economy based on their own individualized experiences,” he explained. “Then we need to give them tools to see, learn and act upon all the information available to know what to expect, how to improve, and even offer guidance in their shopping process.”

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