Realizing full well that understanding its customers is vital to its success as a business and as a leading automaker, the Ford Motor Company has commissioned a study of new car buying habits in 22 European countries that are part of its European operations. The review, conducted for vehicle sales that took place in 2013, considers elements such as the popularity of specific colors, equipment, and other features across Ford models and European markets. The study’s results, released in the Ford Car Buying Trends 2014 report, are quite interesting, as the regional trends and national differences both conform and confound expectations.
“When it comes to car buyers tastes there are a few things that remain consistent over the years and many aspects that change and evolve,” said Roelant de Waard, vice president, Marketing, Sales & Service, Ford of Europe. “We study these changes – and some can be surprising – in order to better serve customers in across Europe.”
Let’s see what the data says.
Among the counterintuitive findings were national preferences for sunroofs. Buyers in Norway, for instance, were the most likely to choose a new Ford with a sunroof (15 percent), just ahead of France (11 percent), and Germany (10 percent).
Meanwhile, drivers in sunny countries were among the least likely to specify sunroofs, including Spain (5 percent), Italy (3 percent), and Greece (2 percent).
Automatic vs. Manual Air Conditioning
Buyers in Norway were also the most likely to buy a new Ford with automatic air conditioning (80 percent), ahead of Belgium (77 percent) and Netherlands (71 percent). Some of the most likely to buy cars with manual air conditioning were drivers in sunny Turkey (96 percent) and Spain (92 percent).
Not surprisingly, Scandinavian drivers also were the most likely to specify heated seats, with 99 percent of Ford cars bought in Sweden, Norway and Finland being equipped with the feature. Heated seats were rare in Turkey (1 percent), Greece (2 percent), and Spain (3 percent).
Countries whose buyers are the most likely to specify a cigarette lighter as part of a smoking pack were Greece (73 percent), Spain (53 percent), and Romania (35 percent).
Across Europe, the most popular colors are white (23 percent), black (20 percent) and grey (17 percent). In fact, one of the three colors was the top choice for every single country except Ireland, Poland, and Romania, where silver — the fourth most popular color in Europe (14 percent) — is the preferred option.
In addition, Turkish buyers are by far the biggest fans of white — with 55 percent of Ford vehicles being purchased in that color. British car buyers, meanwhile, are the most likely in Europe to buy a red Ford — a circumstance that might be a nod to England’s red-coated soldiers. Romanian buyers prefer a Ford with a blue paint job, while Norwegians like brown cars more than any other country (12 percent).
Wagons & Hatches
Wagons, which offer a far more practical option for Mondeo and Focus buyers, are most popular in Denmark (86 percent), the Netherlands (79 percent), and Germany (78 percent). 5-door (hatchback) versions of the same cars were most likely to find a home in Greece (95 percent), Spain (87 percent) and Britain (83 percent).
In Europe as a whole, half of car buyers choose 5-door models, 35 percent prefer wagons, and the remainder opt for 4-door sedans, which are most popular in Turkey (84 percent), Russia (44 percent) and Romania (42 percent).
Those who have used it likely love Active Park Assist, which helps drivers parallel park by using sensors and the steering system to guide a vehicle into a space while the driver simply pushes a button and controls the accelerator and brake pedals. Meanwhile, Active City Stop – a safety system designed to help drivers avoid low-speed collisions — have saved many a driver from an unfortunate accident.
63 percent of German customers have equipped their vehicles with the technology, and even more have opted for Active City Stop (74 percent). The Swiss (63 percent), Portuguese (53 percent) and Austrians (50 percent) also choose Active Park Assist, while drivers from Belgium (36 percent), and Switzerland (34 percent) are the next most likely to specify Active City Stop.
Norway (26 percent), Switzerland (20 percent), the Netherlands (19 percent) and Germany (14 percent) top the list of countries where drivers buy the most technology that pays off on road trips — including Ford’s Blind Spot Information System, Lane Keeping Aid, and Lane Departure Warning.
Drivers in the Netherlands specify the most cars with with cruise control (85 percent), ahead of Finland (78 percent) and Norway (74 percent). Interestingly, of the Dutch customers who bought a Kuga (aka Escape) crossover last year, 94 percent choose the hands-free tailgate, which enables drivers to access the boot space with a gentle kicking motion.
Petrol/Gasoline vs. Diesel
An overwhelming 99 percent of Ford customers bought a new car powered by a petrol or a diesel engine, with less than 1 percent choosing a model powered by alternative fuels. Petrol/gasoline is the fuel of choice for 58 percent of European drivers.
With 97 percent purchasing petrol-powered cars, Russian drivers far and away prefer gasoline engines over their diesel counterparts. Russia is followed by the Czech Republic (80 percent) and Finland (76 percent).
Meanwhile, Diesel is most popular in Turkey (64 percent), followed by Italy (63 percent) and Portugal (61 percent).
Manual vs. Automatic
Drivers in all European countries still prefer a manual gearbox over an automatic one: 85 percent choose a car with a stick. In the Netherlands and Ireland, that rises to 96 percent, and to 95 percent in Greece and Poland.
Russia is the market with the biggest preference for automatics, but at 52 percent, the stick managed to remain the most popular kind of transmission in the country.
“The Ford Car Buyers Report 2014 provides a snapshot of the diverse tastes that Ford is striving to satisfy in Europe, whether customers want an orange car with air conditioning and a tow bar in Norway, or a gold car in the Czech Republic – where the color exceeds average popularity five times over,” de Waard added. “We are fortunate that with for example 11,400 different variations of Fiesta available, we can usually give people exactly what they want.”