Who's Winning Among African American Customers?
Are certain new vehicles addressing cultural distinctions, and why are Nissan product ratings high among African American new car buyers? Pride and individuality are key aspects. Certainly building well designed, high quality, and capable vehicles—at the most discounted price—sells, but it doesn’t end there. African Americans who are potential new vehicle buyers have expectations and needs that are similar to the industry, but they clearly show a distinctive emotional profile on key aspects of the “super values” (Security, Freedom, Esteem, and Balance), that make up the experience owners have with their vehicles. Super values define the largest clusters of values and emotions identified by Dr. Darrel Edwards, founder of Strategic Vision, from the initial 752,284 respondents who completed our worldwide survey on values, emotions and behavior. The overall clusters have been validated against 1.6 million respondents worldwide. There are strengths at two levels: overall positions like Freedom and Esteem and within the super value clusters where the distinctive patterns of specific values and emotions are found. The African American profiles are taken from the syndicated New Vehicle Experience Study (NVES) completed by Strategic Vision each year in the automotive industry. Possession of these emotions and values are not exclusive to African Americans, but are distinctive in the strength or magnitude of their importance. The following chart on Personal Perceptions illustrates the differences in magnitude:
African Americans who completed Strategic Vision’s questionnaire see themselves as very successful and highly motivated. They have a strong desire for personal power and ability to choose, but are careful about trusting others – similar to the population of new vehicle buyers. They see themselves as strong individuals, who demand being recognized as such. African American new vehicle buyers have a strong since of self-esteem. All of these emotional values are components of all new vehicle buyers, but are exceptionally prominent among African Americans. Brands such as Nissan (particularly Altima) deliver to these prominent self-perceptions and needs. The data that immediately follows is from Strategic Vision’s 2005 full-year NVES:
Although automotive brands vary in their success with ethnic groups, it’s clear that some provide products and communication resulting in higher ratings among specific ethnicities. One such rating is Strategic Vision’s Total Quality Index (TQI). For 14 years, Strategic Vision has been providing a syndicated New Vehicle Experience Study (NVES) to the automotive industry.
The NVES is the most comprehensive study in the industry in that it captures a data set including both the history, behavior and attribute ratings of 506 primary, secondary and tertiary attributes of the customers. In addition, it measures the emotional responses, perceptions, consideration factors, intentions, customer delight, and a number of other key indicators and aspects of experience reported by the over 1.4 million new car buyers who have completed the survey since its initiation in 1997. The owners have their vehicles at least three months before they are measured. This interval is an industry standard used by all major syndicated studies.
In order to assure highly reliable results, Strategic Vision created a three year (2003, 2004, and 2005) data sub-set of over 13,000 African American new vehicle buyers, including their emotional responses and the comprehensive measure of their experience with their vehicles after the three month period. The Total Quality Index (TQI) captures the more complete experience the buyer has with his or her vehicle including both rational and emotional aspects.
The index calculates the owners’ responses to product attributes and the emotions that the experience creates and transforms the responses to a 1000 point scale for comparisons. Following is an array of TQI scores that ranks models among African American buyers:
Strategic Vision’s TQI provides specific directions to those who wish to sell more vehicles to African Americans. The scores are directly influenced by the ability of the manufacturer and dealer to satisfy their needs and desires. When African Americans report that they “are proud” and “see themselves as strong individuals,” brands who respond appropriately will sell more cars. Dealers need to listen.
Manufacturers can even define which product attributes speak strongly to those individuals. The revelation is not just in the general emotional profile, but also in the ability to quantify and specify key areas of distinction. “Our unique matrices quantify human values and emotion and the aspects of experience that address those values and needs,” reports Dr. Darrel Edwards, Ph.D, ABPP, Strategic Vision’s CEO and Founder. “Pride and individuality are directly related to exterior and interior style. In addition, the ability to add personal touches to your vehicle that customizes it to be your own is rewarding. Your vehicle makes a statement about you. Manufacturers need to be clearly aware what they can do to engender pride in ownership while making allowance for the buyers to express their individuality. Dealers need to listen to the African American community when they report that they are strongly committed to their sense of pride and individuality. They want respect – as do all buyers – but clearly look for and respond to signs that deliver the message: “We respect your individuality. We are proud of what we have to sell and you will be proud to own our brand.”
The automotive industry is in the most competitive period ever. Manufacturers are building well designed, quality vehicles. There is a need for leverageable guidance. Strategic Vision’s African American study points to hallmarks that can bring success for the manufacturers and dealers. The study identifies the “gold nuggets” that specifically address the African American buyers. As an example, indexed data reveals that the number one reason African Americans considered one of the industry’s leading brands, but rejected it, was the lack of choice: not sensitive to the desire for individuality. There was a strong perception that there were not enough color choices and interior options or versatility. This was ethnically specific to African Americans. The brand offered fair deals, but was not sensitive to a major issue among the African American buyers.
Why are Nissan product ratings high among African American new car buyers? Nissan did exceptionally well on aspects of product coupled with a positive dealership experience that communicated to the buyers’ sense of pride and individuality – cornerstones for positive regard among the African American buyers. On a scale that ranges from 0 to 100 (reflecting top box scores) that measures the brand’s scores on brand delivery (“Clearly Describes My Feelings”), Nissan scores 70 on Pride while the competitive set of brands scores 64. Nissan scores 67 on Individuality while the competitive set scores 51. Nissan presents a strong profile to the African American community of new vehicle buyers.
Are certain new vehicles addressing cultural distinctions? Yes, but it is not that the vehicle was built for a specific ethnic group; it’s the understanding and delivery tailored to these distinctions that will prove to be persuasive to target audiences/customers. It is clear that if Nissan competed, Nissan was a winner among African Americans.
The following are the top five models TQI scores for the African American buyers during the 2003-2005 model years:
Strategic Vision’s ability to examine multi-cultural themes and distinctions was made possible by research led by its CEO, Founder and Creative Director Darrel Edwards, Ph.D. and the targeted efforts of Christopher Chaney, Vice-President and Director of Special Projects.
Dr. Edwards is a recognized expert on decision-making and human behavior, research methods, communications and choices, and is the author of ValueCentered Psychology. He is a clinical psychologist, researcher and consultant and has been a professor of personality theory, research methods, statistics and decision-making for 38 years. His work with his co-founder and research partner J. Susan Johnson (President of Strategic Vision), a research psychologist and clinician, has influenced the writing on strategic systems development, hierarchical decision systems, autonomous hierarchical cluster algorithms, and customer satisfaction research since 1968. Their highly confidential, proprietary research and consulting reaches the offices of Presidents and Prime Ministers, CEOs of Fortune 100 Companies, as well as product planning and development, marketing and sales, and advertising. Strategic Vision was founded in 1972 as a research and consulting partnership and incorporated in 1989.
Chris Chaney has the opportunity to address the needs and experience of the ethnic communities among new vehicle buyers measured by Strategic Vision’s NVES. His experience in technical writing in the industry and his research skills in comprehensive, integrated data systems produces actionable insights for the automotive industry.
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