In the male-dominated world of cars, it's nice to know that there's a car company that actually listens to women. Last week I had the incredible opportunity to visit Toyota USA's national headquarters in Torrance, CA, as a member of their TWIN (Toyota Women's Influencer Network) blogger program, where over 2 dozen bloggers gave Toyota an earful as they hosted a feedback session on the car buying process. Oh yeah, we also got to learn about Toyota's philanthropic efforts, drive cool Toyota cars (including their prototype hydrogen fuel cell vehicle!) and visit the Toyota Automobile Museum, but what made this event different from a regular "look at what a great company we are" blogger event was their genuine interest in listening to our opinions and gathering our feedback. And believe me, when you have a roomful of bloggers, there's certainly no shortage of opinions!
The question of the day was a crucial one: what are the best and worst parts of shopping for a car? Toyota asked each of the bloggers at the event this question, and the answers were as varied as the bloggers themselves. Here's what we told Toyota:
Best things about the car buying process:
Test driving the car.
Seeing all the new technology and new features.
That new car smell.
That first drive.
Having a clean, new car without any juice spills, cheerios or trash.
Having a new toy.
Naming the car.
Driving out of the dealership for the first time.
Becoming one with the car and the road.
Least favorite things about the car buying process:
How long it takes to do the research (Toyota told us the average time to research and buy a car is 4-6 months)
Visiting multiple dealerships
Being shadowed by salespeople.
The constant sales pitch.
Salespeople who try to tell me what I want.Being ignored/talked down to by salespeople because I'm a woman.
Being treated like an idiot woman.
Test driving with a salesperson.
Figuring out how they came up with monthly payments and other numbers, (i.e. fuzzy math)
The negotiation process.
Fighting with the dealer about money.
How long the whole process at the dealership takes (Toyota told us the average spent at a dealership when buying a car is 4-6 hours).
Paying the money.
Does any of that look familiar to you? The "cons" list is definitely longer than the "pros" -- no wonder most people dread going car shopping! I was surprised at how many women in the room experienced being "talked down to" or ignored by car salespeople; even though they would be using the car, and even though many of them would be making the final purchase decision, the salespeople still talked to their spouses or male companions! Only 1 blogger mentioned a positive car buying experience. She was in and out of the dealership in 2 hours, and the salesperson she dealt with was not in the least condescending. The fact that she actually remembers the guy's name (kudos to Carlos from Toyota Town & Country in Charlotte!) shows how important word of mouth can be, and how good service really goes a long way.
Toyota assured us that they heard our concerns loud and clear, and they were working hard to change the way women experience car buying. Getting a new car is, after all, one of the most exciting experiences a person can have, so it makes sense to make the whole thing as enjoyable as possible! The general consensus in the room was, "If you can make car shopping as fun as shoe shopping, you'll have it made". Thanks for listening, Toyota -- hopefully we'll be hearing a lot less of these stories, and maybe that "pro" list will one day surpass the "cons"!
What do you hate or love about the car buying process?
Disclosure:I was selected for participation in the TWIN community through a program with Clever Girls Collective. I did not receive any compensation for writing this post, or payment in exchange for participating. The opinions expressed herein are mine, and do not reflect the views of Toyota.