The Showroom

Study: Highline Buyers Defy Expectations

October 31, 2017

A new study commissioned by Jumpstart Automotive Media finds today’s luxury-car buyers are younger than expected and more motivated by the total ownership experience than a desire to impress others. Photo courtesy Mercedes-Benz USA LLC
A new study commissioned by Jumpstart Automotive Media finds today’s luxury-car buyers are younger than expected and more motivated by the total ownership experience than a desire to impress others. Photo courtesy Mercedes-Benz USA LLC

SAN FRANCISCO — Jumpstart Automotive Media (div. Hearst Autos) released its latest auto shopper study, “Today’s Luxury Auto Owners: How Emotion, Experience and Loyalty Drive Purchase Decisions,” in collaboration with Ipsos Connect. The report looks at new trends in luxury auto shopping to better understand the luxury auto shopper mindset.

Analysts found the luxury market looks significantly different today compared to a decade or two ago. Today, luxury automakers are continuously introducing a bevy of entry-level vehicles that compete with non-luxury choices filled with advanced technology and features. This, combined with more aggressive financing and CPO options, means it’s never been more affordable to drive a luxury vehicle.

In response, luxury sales have grown. Today, luxury accounts for 13% of total sales, up 3% from 2014. Across Jumpstart sites, 34% of shoppers are researching luxury vehicles, up 4% from 2014, according to the company.

Working with global research firm Ipsos Connect, Jumpstart conducted qualitative research (18 in-home interviews with consumers who either currently own a luxury vehicle or have in the past) as well as an expert panel with professionals from the advertising, travel, food, journalism and sociology industries. The firms then quantified those findings through a national survey of 751 auto owners to reveal new insight into today’s luxury auto owners. This study looks at general perceptions of luxury, and how emotion, experience and loyalty drive purchase decisions.

According to the findings, today’s luxury owners are young, college-educated homeowners who are willing to pay more to get what they want. What’s more, they are more likely to be self-employed, and they are 69% more likely to use their vehicles primarily for their personal business. This is perhaps counter to the long-held perception that luxury owners are older and more established.

One of the characteristics that motivate today’s buyers is centered around the fact that luxury owners today are looking to impress themselves, rather than others. In fact, 91% of luxury buyers interviewed said they would rather have a vehicle that is satisfying to them, rather than impressive to others. This is also counter to previous perceptions, where it was deemed important to show off luxury to family and friends.

The study found that the “total brand experience” is critical in connecting to and impressing today’s luxury auto shopper, above and beyond just offering a car with brand panache. Luxury owners today are open to experiential events and reliant on the dealership more for maintenance, which also gives dealers the chance to influence consumers even when they are not in the buying state of mind.

“Loyalty remains a strong characteristic among luxury owners, but it’s important for dealers to understand what motivates today’s luxury shopper so they can continue to improve on sales opportunities and keep satisfaction levels high,” said Aline Hilsabeck, senior director of strategic insights and analytics at Jumpstart. “This is especially critical for mass-market owners, who may not be in-market immediately and ready to buy, but are always keeping one eye on their next vehicle and influenced by a number of criteria in their shopping.”

“This study highlights how brand experiences, as they do in so many categories, influence luxury auto purchase and loyalty. From the car’s performance and events to the dealership and maintenance experience, consumer perception is impacted throughout the entire shopping journey. Automotive marketers must take heed and understand and cater to the luxury buyers’ needs and expectations,” said Michael Baer, senior vice president and team lead for Ipsos' Affluent Intelligence Group.

The study also takes an in-depth look at mass market owners, luxury brand loyalty, and how emotions are driving consideration. To download the full study, click here.

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