Making smart car-buying decisions. For some women, the prospect of purchasing a new or used car may seem daunting. The thought of going through those shiny glass double doors to be approached by a salesperson evokes feelings of discomfort, anxiety or fear. In times past, many of us have equipped ourselves with brothers, fathers or male friends to ward off the anticipated. Well, ladies, there’s a whole new world, and here are the reasons why. DENVER WOMAN visited four car dealerships in the Denver area, some of them owned by women, and asked, “What do women need to know when purchasing a car?” Their answers might surprise you, but if you take their advice, purchasing a car might be the most fun-filled and empowering experience you have had in a long time. We visited Lisa Schomp, president and owner of Ralph Schomp Automotive; Mary Pacifico-Valley, president and owner of Rickenbaugh Cadillac Volvo; Herm Brocksmith, general sales manager of Kuni Lexus; and Lisa Murray Haifleigh, brand marketing manager for Murray Motor Imports. Individually and collectively, they shared information about how things have changed, the trends that show women are major influencers of car purchases, the way dealerships market to women and what you need to know when making your next purchase.

SOME AUTOMOTIVE PURCHASING FACTS
• Women influence over 80 percent of all car sales.
• Women buy more than 60 percent of all new cars.
• Women purchase 53 percent of all used cars.
• Women’s incomes are rising faster than men’s.
• Women are the Chief Purchasing Officers of most households.
• Women spend their own money, not necessarily men’s money.
• Women are the primary purchasers of nearly EVERYTHING!
* From the book Trends … Recognize, Analyze, Capitalize by Tom Peters and Martha Barletta.

With this information in mind, have salespersons changed their approach? Most definitely! The industry realizes that women are not only a growing market, but also the market that they want to capture. Recognizing the information from the trends, what can women anticipate as they walk through the showroom doors? Salespersons realize that when you walk into the showroom, you walk in with all your past experiences, both positive and negative. Salespersons know the importance of truly listening to the female purchaser. Doing so will not only make the car-purchasing experience positive, but it will go a long way to changing former negative experiences. Salespersons understand that they must inquire as to whom the car is for. If a woman and man come in and the purchase is for the woman, an astute salesperson will direct the conversation and questions to her.

Salespersons realize that women are relationship-based rather than transactional-based, so in order to assist you in your purchase and earn repeat business, they understand that they need to win your trust. Salespersons know that rather than merely hearing the facts, women want to know how the information relates to them, how it will not only improve their lives but how it can save them time. So now that you know what you can expect when purchasing your next car, our car experts want to tell you how being prepared can enhance your overall experience and to share tips that help in negotiating the transaction.

DOING YOUR OWN NEEDS ANALYSIS AND MARKET RESEARCH
Our experts told us that the Internet can be a valuable source of information. What types of information can you access? How do you go about mapping your car purchase plan? Take the time to determine just what price range you can afford. If you are financing your purchase, what monthly payment are you able to make? Take the time to make sure that you qualify for that monthly payment. Will you be trading in a car? If so, use the Internet to determine what dollar amount you can expect from the dealership. This information will help you in mapping out your plan. Decide which car you want. Use the Internet to research vehicle types, makes, models, options and prices. Two Web sites that will be helpful with your car research are www.carmax.com and www.Edmunds.com.

These Web sites can provide you with actual prices, photos, information and fact sheets so that you are prepared when you step onto the lot. Once you have completed these steps and have narrowed your search to the dealership where you intend to purchase, plan on bringing the following items to effect a smooth transaction. If you will be trading in a car, bring the vehicle, title, insurance card, your driver’s license and any pre-approval letter or sight draft for financing. Find a salesperson whom you like and trust and do not hesitate to ask as many questions as you may have until you feel comfortable with the terms and the car and options you have chosen. The experts want you to know that if you do not feel comfortable with the salesperson, you may ask for someone else. Being properly prepared, mapping out your plan and knowing exactly what you want and the amount you are willing and qualified to pay, your car-purchasing experience can be both empowering and enjoyable.

SOME FINAL THOUGHTS FROM OUR EXPERTS
Lisa Schomp, president and owner of Ralph Schomp Automotive, tells us that in 1991, after listening to their customers, they went to a one-price, no-haggle price structure. It has allowed their sales force to work with their customers in a spirit of trust. This move has proven to be successful and has had resounding approval from their customers. Mary Pacifico-Valley, president and owner of Rickenbaugh Cadillac Volvo, who started with the dealership at age 19, relates that they don’t just sell cars — they build relationships, which has been true for over half a century. Earning customer loyalty in a very competitive market and promoting customer satisfaction have kept Rickenbaugh Cadillac Volvo consistently successful. Herm Brocksmith, general sales manager of Kuni Lexus, tells us that Lexus has responded to the changes and trends in the market with its program, Woman to Woman. Its female Lexus Certified Sales and Service Associates want you to feel comfortable to ask questions relating to anything automotive in an environment where your questions are treated with respect by courteous and knowledgeable dealership representatives. Has the approach proved successful? Yes! Lisa Murray Haifleigh, brand marketing manager for Murray Motor Imports, shares their family philosophy: “Treat your customers the way you want to be treated.” At Murray Motors they realize that when you enter their showroom, you walk in with all your prior buying experiences. It is their goal that you not only feel respected, but they also want your carpurchasing experience to be an elegant one. It is this family philosophy that has made Murray Motor Imports successful.

YOUR NEXT BUYING EXPERIENCE
Purchasing a car can be both enjoyable and empowering. Take the time to map out your next car-buying purchase and realize that it does not have to be a daunting experience but just might be the most fun you have had in a long time.

Written by MICHELLE ONODA
Photography by JOHN MUELLER