Association, Inc.

Issue No. 2, 2007

Cars for Women Buyers

by Peter Nunn

On a fashionable street in Tokyo, an attractive Japanese woman drives past in a Jaguar. Not far away, two young girls are sitting, listening to music in their little Toyota. Out in the country, Mrs Saito drives her family's Suzuki minicar to the shopping mall.

Call it a sign of the times if you like, but Japanese women are proving a new and growing influence in Japan’s fast-evolving marketplace.

Japanese women are not only buying more cars than ever before; surveys show their influence in car-buying decisions is also very much on the rise. According to one report, nearly 30 percent of all new car buyers in Japan today are women, compared to a little more than 20 percent ten years ago.

Nearly 40 percent of male car buyers say they rely on their wives' opinions when buying a car, well up from 25 percent a decade back. Combined, it’s reckoned that women are involved in about 60 percent of new car purchases. In a 5.7 million-unit Japanese home market, that's a lot of cars…

Not surprisingly, carmakers are now starting to introduce models and features to attract women buyers. Models like the Nissan Pino, for instance, a tiny 660cc minicar whose 'cute' style, fittings and colours have proved a big hit with numerous younger women, appeal specifically to their target audience.

Many of Japan's unique 660cc minicars are in fact designed with women in mind, and in a booming mini sector that hit a record 2.02 million units in 2006 (for a more than 35 percent total market share), it’s no wonder the female vote is on the rise.

Giants like Toyota, Mitsubishi and Honda may not (or not yet) be overtly targeting women buyers, but some of their cars, too, have been designed with women in mind.  The Toyota Sienta, for instance, a small minivan with round lights and friendly "face", also has an interior based around the needs of mothers with young children to carry. 

mitsubishiMitsubishi made a point of interviewing young mums at childrens' class meetings when planning its latest 660cc eK Wagon minicar wagon. One class up, the innovative packaging of Honda’s Fit (Jazz) has proved a boon with both mothers and families.

Back at Nissan, its new Lafesta minivan has special folding seats to make it easier for mum to attend to her toddler. Mazda admits that right from the start, women buyers have played a significant role in the phenomenal success of its Roadster (MX-5) sports car.

Talking of fast cars, we know of one lady manager who drives her Corvette to work every day.  In Tokyo, it's not uncommon to see Japanese women driving Alfas and Lancias—Lexuses, Porsches, Mercedes, BMWs, and Audis too, for that matter.

Let's finish with Mrs Saito, though, whom we met earlier out in the country with her Suzuki minicar and whose daughter also runs a Daihatsu mini of her own. Clearly, they're part of a growing, newly empowered world for women car buyers in Japan, a nation that’s often been considered ahead of the curve when it comes to setting new trends and fashions.