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Supercar brands using female advisory boards to tap the potential of women buyers

Jill Petzinger
Jill Petzinger, Germany Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
Kate Moss walks past a luxury car as she arrives at Paris Fashion Week earlier this year. Photo: Getty

Flashy, powerful supercars have traditionally been bought and driven by men, and mostly still are. However, some of the world’s most storied luxury automakers are keen to tap into lucrative potential of the female drivers as a way to boost their sales. 

Lamborghini and Aston Martin have both created female advisory boards to research what women would drive a supercar, what they look for in a luxury vehicle, and how to persuade them to buy.

Aston Martin set up its female advisory board (FAB) in 2015, with the backing of CEO Andy Palmer. “The aim was to bring together a group of females, not necessarily all car buyers in their own right, but who live in that luxury space,” says Carlee Hardaker, Aston Martin’s senior manager of Global Customer and Market Intelligence.

Hardaker says the goal of forming the board was not about building special cars just for women but rather to bring these women “into the inner sanctum of Aston Martin, to understand what drives them at emotional level and understand how we can better engage with that growing group of global customers.”

Traditionally about 94% of Aston’s customers have been male — on par with other supercar brands — but that is changing. There’s a potential for about 27% of the luxury car market to be female, Hardaker says. Exclusive car brands are also wise to the fact that women are a key driver of the growing SUV market, and Aston, Lamborghini, Rolls-Royce, and Bentley have all launched luxury SUVs, which may serve as a gateway to get women into their brands, and sports cars in general. 

READ MORE: Aston Martin uncovers its uber-luxe Lagonda SUV concept at Geneva

Hardaker says already in China more that 40% of Aston’s customers are women, and that for many of these women, driving a supercar is about showing off newfound power in a very outward way. “The sports car is very much a statement, an external, outward portrayal of success. It’s also tapping into that ‘I can be the same as a man’, and using that to portray an image of having that same kind of empowerment.”

Women from different backgrounds in the US, China, Europe, Japan and India were invited to join Aston’s advisory group. Hardaker says that the carmaker is already using insights gleaned from the FAB in the vehicle design and development, for example in the ease of getting in and out of the car, and being able to swing your legs in in a skirt, burka, or sari.

“Our DB11 and Vantage have a larger aperture to help with this ease of entering and exiting the vehicle with grace,” she says, as well as the range of adjustment in seats to get the best driving position, and attention to some of the details of the interior in terms of materials and finishes.

“The ladies [of the advisory board] have already been involved in the initial buck for the Vanquish Vision Concept, testing the package, driving positions and ingress/egress for the mid-engine car … insight that is used early within the development process that has a real influence on the final product,” she added

As well as understanding what women want in a top-of-the-range car, it is equally important to shape how they perceive the brand as they also control the purse strings of about 80% of household purchases.

“It might be that their husband, boyfriend, or son, comes home and says ‘I’m going to buy myself a supercar’ or I’m going to buy a Ferrari or a Lamborghini.’ And the woman says ‘no you’re not, it looks like you’re having a mid-life crisis, but you can have an Aston.” 

Attracting women can also be reason why some men buy sportscars in the first place, she says, so if women don’t find that car brand the man is driving attractive, they are not going to find the driver attractive either.  

‘Women are making investments’

Lamborghini chief marketing officer Katia Bassi

For Katia Bassi, chief marketing officer at Lamborghini, the idea of a female advisory board was also borne out of the untapped commercial potential of women car buyers. She says studies show that 38% of global wealth will be held by women by 2025, which for her meant a golden opportunity.

“Women are making investments by themselves, meaning that, depending on what they like, they invest in super sports cars, in watches, in paintings,” says Bassi. “I thought that it was the moment also for Lamborghini to be more open for women.”

The CMO established Lamborghini’s female advisory board at the start of 2018. It currently comprises a community of 200 women all over the world. So far, advisory board members have met in Singapore, Los Angeles, Sydney, Dubai, Tokyo, London, New York, Macao, and Milan last year. Like at Aston, they do not have to already own a supercar, but are high-powered women who are at home in the luxury world.

Neither brand said straight out that the women are seriously wealthy, but with the Lamborghini Aventador priced at around £260,000 and an Aston Martin DB11 at £200,000 they clearly are.

So, what do women look for in a supercar brand?

The new Aston Martin Lagonda SUV Concept. Photo: Reuters/Pierre Albouy

Both companies have discovered via their female advisers that women who would consider buying a supercar have many things in common.

“From what I’ve found, it’s about storytelling, which is what involves them in the brand,” says Hardaker. “It’s about the details, and it’s a bit about CSR [corporate social responsibility] — you’re buying into a brand that meets your emotional needs as well.”

For many of these women, a supercar stands for empowerment, and being financially independent in their own right. “It’s about being able to use your well-earned money on yourself,” she says.

These high-powered women appreciate the pure enjoyment the car delivers. “It’s not just getting from A to B … it’s about feeling invigorated when you’re driving it, that kind of dominance on the road – it allows you to go places, it’s a kind of freedom.” 

Over at Lamborghini, Bassi has made similar discoveries. She divides potential female customers into two groups: those who are interested in sports cars in general (in the same way a man would be) because of their power and design, and those who first want to understand the brand. This second group wants to be sure that Lamborghini’s philosophy and values fit with their own. Overall, they want a connected car that allows them to multitask on the go, and interiors that be customised to reflect their personalities.

Bassi has says that women don’t necessarily see a Lamborghini as a status symbol, but admits you have to be pretty comfortable in your skin to choose a Lamborghini as your ride.

“Its not a matter of being a man or a woman it’s a matter of being someone who feels absolutely comfortable in driving a Lamborghini or a super sports car,” she says “And these women are following us because they realise that – it’s a matter of personality, and feeling ‘I’m absolutely fine driving a Lamborghini, because it’s me’.”