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Survey Shows Women Buying More Cars--and Selling Them Too : Autos: Number of females in showrooms is growing. They get high marks, especially from other women.

November 08, 1994|ERROL A. COCKFIELD JR. | TIMES STAFF WRITER

When some people looking to buy a car walk into Tustin Acura, they are surprised to encounter Robin M. Saporito, who has been a saleswoman at the Orange County dealership for four months.

A lot of them say they didn't know that women sold cars, Saporito said.

But women are selling a lot of cars these days for a simple reason, according to a survey of new car buyers released Monday by J.D. Power & Associates: Women are buying more cars--nearly half of all 1994 models sold in the United States--and they prefer to purchase from other women.

The survey of about 45,000 buyers of 1994 cars found that saleswomen received higher overall rankings for customer satisfaction than did their male counterparts, said J.D. Power, an Agoura Hills-based marketing information firm.

Women car buyers say they are more comfortable when negotiating with members of their own sex, according to the survey. On the other hand, most male buyers surveyed did not express a gender preference, but they gave saleswomen high marks in many areas.

"Female salespeople tend to be more caring. . . . They listen more to the customer's needs and they show more empathy toward customers," said Dick Hsu, general manager at Tustin Acura.

Another possible reason for the higher marks given women in the survey, according to authors of the survey, is that saleswomen appear to be adapting better to the increased use by automobile dealers of the so-called consultative method of sales over the "adversarial method." The consultative method entails salespeople cooperating with customers to find a way for them to purchase a car.

J.D. Power estimates that women now make up about 13% of the sales force at dealerships across the nation.

Forty-four percent of dealerships have at least one saleswomen and two-thirds have at least one female sales manager, according to the report.

Overall, men and women who participated in the survey gave women "excellent" ratings on "appearance, dress, sincerity and honesty," the survey found. However, women received slightly lower marks on "knowledge of models and features" and understanding competitors' products.

It has been difficult for women to overcome customer skepticism about their technical knowledge, Saporito said.

Many of her customers are engineers who know more about cars than she does.

"Men, especially engineers, will start asking questions, hoping to catch me," she said.

Linda Lee, also a Tustin Acura saleswoman, said some customers question her expertise, but she said she believes that in most cases, she has been able to assure them that she is knowledgeable. Lee said that when she deals with female buyers, there is a rapport from the beginning.

"I think women appreciate being treated with respect," Saporito said.

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