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Selling Smaller Cars in the US Won't be Child's Play

AutoPacific_VV.jpgAutoPacific, Inc. and SIGMA GmbH use Model-Level Social Milieus to Help Manufacturers Determine How to Make Small Cars Sell to US Consumers
TUSTIN, Calif. USA and MANNHEIM, Germany (December 9, 2009) – Tightening CAFE standards may force smaller cars on US car buyers who are not inclined to downsize. “Our research shows that, despite what the U.S. Government is telling us, few Americans want to downsize to smaller cars,” says George Peterson, President of AutoPacific, “Finding more buyers inclined to purchase smaller cars will not be easy.”
For years, the US automobile industry has relied heavily on analyzing demographic factors in order to segment the marketplace, and sell consumers vehicles with different characteristics. Traditional socio-demographic targeting using variables such as sex, age, education or income, has been the norm. While many manufacturers have tried to create independent systems for segmenting the market, the results are often short-lived, and lack a global perspective in an industry that clearly must design and sell vehicles on a global level.

“As automotive researchers, we have often found that the segmentation tools being used by our clients often only last a few years, and are not portable to other markets,” says George Peterson, President of AutoPacific, “This constant change, has made it difficult for global manufacturers to indentify the true motivators behind vehicle sales, and keep their focus necessary to sell vehicles successfully on global level.”
“We have identified nine social Milieus – or consumer psychographic segments – that can help us understand which US car buyers will have an easier time embracing smaller vehicles as many buyers do in Europe,” says Carsten Ascheberg, Managing Director at SIGMA, a global consulting firm based in Mannheim, Germany. “By combining AutoPacfiic’s Research Suite(r) database of 32,000 new car Buyers, and SIGMA’s Social Milieu(r) approach the resulting data and analysis offers model level insights into the true purchase motivators of US Car Buyers, and allows this understanding to have an impact on the global plans for our clients. The AutoPacific/SIGMA research shows that small car considerers are much more likely to be of the “Affluent Progressives” Milieu, than any of the other eight Milieus. Affluent Progressives are conscientious consumers who are upscale and well off and base much of their purchase decisions on the brand or product’s role towards promoting the greater good…as well as catering to his or her own emotional needs. By targeting this group in product design and marketing, manufacturers will have a much better chance of moving Americans into smaller, more fuel efficient vehicles. Additionally, these Milieus can be used to help manufacturers more accurately target features for future vehicles by determining which Milieus will be most receptive to certain automotive features.”
“Today, more than ever before, brand preferences and purchase decisions are influenced by each individual’s personality, values and attitude towards life: You buy what you can identify with. Furthermore, these values and attitudes, do not change overnight.,” says Ascheberg. In 2005, the Wall Street Journal covered how SIGMA used this approach to help BMW re-align its brand and launch the highly successful MINI brand worldwide. “We are seeing the seeds of a similar revolution possible in the US market.”
The SIGMA Milieus(r) reflect the psychological predisposition of customers and link them to the acceptance or rejection of products and makes. Not only have the various Milieus remained stable over time, but also they have proven to be highly selective. The consumer cultures that are defined by the Milieus can be found the world over, giving this research global implications for automakers.
AutoPacific’s Research Suite(r) database was developed in 1993 and is used by manufacturers and tier one suppliers to understand the US car buying population, and help predict the features and attributes the future vehicle buyers will demand. In conjunction with SIGMA’s global Social Milieu approach, developed in 1980, the resulting understanding of target buyers and their future intentions with regards to brands, segments and features is powerful.
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About AutoPacific
AutoPacific is a future-oriented automotive marketing research and product-consulting firm. Every year AutoPacific publishes a wide variety of syndicated studies on the automotive industry. The firm, founded in 1986, also conducts extensive proprietary research and consulting for auto manufacturers, distributors, marketers and suppliers worldwide. Company headquarters and its state-of-the-art automotive research facility are in Tustin, California, with an affiliate office in the Detroit area. Additional information can be found on AutoPacific’s websites: and http:/
“SIGMA” stands for an interdisciplinary team of experts from the areas of economics, as well as social sciences and humanities, which have set out to analyze consumers in a holistic and complete way, in order to explain their behavior on the market and to predict future demands and expectations these customers might have. SIGMA provides services for companies, which operate on a global scale, in highly segmented submarkets in need of intelligent target group systems. The model of the “Social Milieus” was developed in 1979/80. Jörg Ueltzhöffer, who was significantly involved in developing the model, along with Carsten Ascheberg founded the SIGMA institute. Together they operationalized their scientific findings in the SIGMA Milieus(r). Continuously revised and most importantly with an international focus from the beginning, the SIGMA Milieus(r) today segment societies and markets in Europe, Russia, Japan, South East Asia, Mainland China, Australia, South Africa and the USA. Under company law SIGMA is still considered independent and operates globally with a network of long standing partnerships and co-operations.
Dan Hall, AutoPacific, (714) 838-4234,
Deborah Grieb, AutoPacific, (734) 446-6940
Carsten Ascheberg, SIGMA +49 (0) 621/12 92 2-0

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