Remarkably, given the millions of pounds and many hours of effort invested in chasing every sale by car retailers across the land, one of the biggest ways to gain an upper hand may well also be one of the most obvious: employ more women.
It’s more simply said than done, of course, but new research by Mazda UK has laid bare the impact today’s imbalance has on customers and sparked an initiative that boss Jeremy Thomson says is “critical” to resolve the issues, spurred on by the data highlighting just 24% of industry dealer staff are women, with 8% in sales roles and 6% in senior roles. “6% is senior roles - that’s an absolute shocker,” he concedes.
Why critical? Aside from the obvious societal failing given 48.5% of all UK driving licences are held by women, in a March 2022 survey of around 2000 Mazda customers and prospective customers, weighted to ensure fair representation in answers, 76% of women and 44% of men acknowledged they were aware of the imbalance.
In turn, 52% of women and 31% of men said they would like to see more balance and 42% of women and 24% of men said they’d have a more favourable perception of the dealership if there was more balance. “In simple terms our customers or would-be customers are telling us that if we can address this, we are more likely to sell cars,” says Thomson. “I’m here to do the right thing - but open about the motivation of selling more cars as a result.”
Mazda’s own data can be layered on top of an independent poll by Auto Trader in 2018, with headline findings revealing 94% of women don’t trust dealerships, 15% saying they weren’t acknowledged in-store if they went in with a partner and 13% finding the in-store experience uncomfortable. Thomson’s own data also reveals a generational shift in attitudes.
“In simple terms, the younger our respondents were, the more bothered they were by it,” says Thomson. “My hunch - and it’s impossible to say this with absolute confidence given it’s a spot survey - is that the response isn’t just a result of their age, but rather because of a societal shift in attitudes. In other words, if we don’t address it now, the problems that stem from the imbalance are only going to get more acute.”