Who drives a household's auto-buying decisions?

(January 31, 2013) WASHINGTON — It turns out that both genders have the perception that they're the ones "calling the shots" when it comes to buying an auto, according to a new survey of vehicle owners. A full 72 percent of men believe that they're the ones with the most influence while 60 percent of women believe that they, in fact, are the ones having the most say. 

The findings come from last month's Auto Index poll, conducted by Pulse Opinion Research on behalf of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.

Survey participants had more agreement on who has the influence on specific aspects of the auto purchase:  85 percent of men and 47 percent of women believe that men have the upper hand in decision making about engine and powertrain matters.  When it comes to choosing vehicle options, both sexes, however, believe they have the edge: 70 percent of women and 60 percent of men say they each have the most influence on picking vehicle options.

This new research also shows that political party affiliation plays a role in these perceptions.  Generally speaking, self-identified Democrats are equally split on who has the influence edge while self-identified Republicans say men have the stronger voice in the purchasing discussion.   

Three years ago, an NBCUniversal poll showed that women purchase 60 percent of all new cars, 53 percent of all used cars, and have some influence on 85 percent of all auto purchases.  

"One of our industry's most daunting tasks is meeting the needs of such a wide range of consumers," said Alliance President and CEO Mitch Bainwol. "And this research shows why that can be such a complex process: there are a lot of different voices in so many households.  But what's especially impressive about this data is that it shows what a strong role women play in so many purchases."

The polling results also offer a glimpse into perceptions of how the different genders interact with vehicles long after the consumer has driven off the showroom lot. For example, 55 percent of those polled said women were more likely than men to purchase a navigation system to avoid getting lost; 48 percent believe that women use their turn signals more often than men; and 45 percent said that — generally speaking — women keep their cars cleaner than men do.

Already established data have shown the tremendous impact women have on the entire auto industry. According to the book "Influence: How Women's Soaring Economic Power Will Transform Our World for the Better," women influence a full 85 percent of all car purchases — worth more than $80 billion every year.

All told, data show that women spend $300 billion on vehicles annually, and outnumber men in terms of having driver's licenses: 105.7 million women have driver's licenses —1.4 million more than men.

The Auto Index data is gathered monthly by Pulse Opinion Research, which conducts a national telephone survey of 5,000 automobile owners. The Auto Alliance regularly releases timely and topical findings on auto consumer attitudes, and releases complete findings twice a year.