Automobile sales, like car sales, are largely male domains. However, with the evolution of morals and society, women are starting to impose themselves in this universe, to the point now of being prized by OEMs and described as “elite saleswomen”. But a question arises: What is the place of women in car sales?
Cars and Car Sales… very masculine worlds
The automobile sector has always been dominated by men. Up to recently, women were relatively uninvolved in car buying. Likewise, the world of Car Sales is also dominated by men. In fact, with the exceptions of luxury, fashion or cosmetics, there are few sectors that recruit mainly female sales people. The figures would seem to confirm this. According to several studies, women only represent between 10 and 20% of salespeople in the automotive industry. In addition, about 75% of dealerships would be hesitant about hiring a woman as a sales representative. It should also be noted that only 25% of positions in the automotive industry are held by women, according to a TNS Sofres study commissioned by the association Les Elles de l’Auto. So much so that women are mainly confined to two roles in the automotive world: reception desk in dealerships and hostess at trade fairs. But things have started to change.
The car, an area that women are starting to enter…
Over the past few years, the place of women in the automotive world has evolved. Their role in the purchase of a vehicle is certainly the most telling proof of this. According to a GMC Factory study, 77% of women participated in the purchase of a car in 2014. This figure is all the more impressive when you consider that only 58% of women participated in 2004. Some 33% of women even make a car purchase without the help of a man! This interest in cars is partly due to changes in society and morals. It is now possible for a woman to enjoy the automobile and not have to conceal this fact. Indeed, we even have “caristas” (coined from fashionistas) – these women who are passionate about cars. Small wonder then that some of them have decided to make it their profession.
Women, those elite auto salespeople…
Recently, the major car manufacturers have been looking at female profiles for their sales teams. On-the-ground research found that women tended to be better salespeople than men. By 2015, Citroen had published information about its teams. Out of 1600 salespeople, only 5 were women. Yet they made an average of 300 sales every year, twice as many as their male counterparts. This trend seems to be confirmed in a large number of dealerships where women have become what are known as Elite Saleswomen. This being the case, it is difficult to understand why women only represent between 10% to 20% of car salespeople, especially since the Groups want to bring more women into their teams. The independence of the dealerships gives us at least a partial answer: 95% of French dealerships are managed by independent bosses who can apply the recruitment policy they like. That said, we can expect more women to enter the sector over the coming years, with several experts expecting to a doubling in the number of women in automotive sales positions. The main reason for this is the growing awareness of the Groups. For example, Renault wants to recruit 50% of women to sales positions over the coming years, and Peugeot is aiming for 30%. Likewise, we have Citroen who appointed a woman to its Management Board in 2014. These are all clear signs of a changing recruitment policy.
Why are women so popular in the automotive world?
But how can we explain the fact that women have become elite car saleswomen, both rare and coveted? As we have seen, their sales results are certainly the most obvious explanation. Moreover, the customer base has become more feminine and the presence of women in the French car market has been growing steadily over recent years. Female saleswomen also have qualities that their male counterparts do not necessarily possess. Just as tenacious, they are generally more attuned and attentive to customers. They tend to more perfectionist and often have an eye for detail. A survey unveiled in 2016 also revealed that male customers are less inclined to negotiate with a woman. Finally, the evolution of society has made it perfectly acceptable and possible for a woman to be passionate about cars. As the automotive world is still perceived as very masculine, only ultra-passionate and competent female salespeople are embarking on the adventure. No wonder then that many of them quickly become elite saleswomen. These are all reasons to believe that dealerships will open their doors to bringing in more saleswomen over the years to come.
Although it is still very masculine, the automotive world is gradually becoming more feminine. Given the changes in society and the relationship that women now have with cars, this sector should soon be welcoming any elite female salespeople. In any case, this is a wish expressed by the management of most French OEMs, such as Renault, Peugeot and Citroen. Time will tell what actually comes of this.