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How car companies influence our decision-making process

If you’re looking to buy a new car, there are a few factors to keep front of mind the next time you’re at the dealership swooning over the latest car and deciding if you need to buy it.

For many, purchasing a car might be one of the biggest purchases we make in life, second to property. Some might spend months researching the differences between models while others prefer to stroll into a dealership and speak to a consultant about the models before deciding which one to buy.

Regardless of how you prefer to decide on your next car, keep in mind that there are tools car companies utilise to market their products to influence people’s purchasing decisions.

Creating an emotional attachment

Let’s strip back what a car is used for; to get us from one place to another, however, there are a plethora of brands and models available on the market, which complicates the decision-making process.

Car brands have studied the importance emotion plays in the decision-making process and have employed specific angles in their advertisements to tug on the heartstrings of the viewer.

Examining car ads, many evoke aspirational feelings of freedom, romance, adventure, and status. Appealing storytelling that the viewer will associate with positive feelings will help create emotional attachments, which will have a subconscious impact on our purchasing decisions.

Status symbols & brand associations

Car brands have certain words and a ‘look’ associated with them, which is intentional as they have spent a lot of time and money in curating their image and reputation.

Consistent branding and messaging in their advertisements, website and other publicly accessible materials must adhere to their brand manual to evoke the same associations.

Aligning their cars with certain lifestyles will help car brands appeal to consumers that desire to belong to a specific identity or community. This subconscious association will foster long-term brand loyalty and a willingness to pay more for the perceived prestige linked with the product.

Oversupply of features

Years ago, car manufacturers could charge buyers extra for add-ons to the car be it safety features or a sunroof. Nowadays, consumers prioritise value for money and companies must listen to the shifting demands.

Modern cars are packed to bursting with features and functions that rival what a computer can do and oftentimes come standard with the vehicle.

This is evident in the media releases and announcements from carmakers that will highlight the different features and functions of the newest models. This creates an image in which consumers can determine if the car’s price is ‘worth it’ or not as an excess of features is surely a good thing, right?

A downside to having too many features is that it can overwhelm consumers, which will make it hard to identify which features you’ll actually use.

Inflating supply & demand

Artificially creating a supply scarcity is an old tactic salespeople use. A sense of urgency and limited supply will influence a consumer to purchase the car sooner if there is a threat to their potential ownership.

Limited edition models, model-exclusive features and colours, and promotional periods contribute to scarcity tactics and the fear of missing out. A limited-edition item intensifies the desire to own it, to differentiate oneself from the crowd. To take advantage of our fear of missing out, car brands actively push for impulse purchases and urge consumers to put the deposit down today and sign the contract!

Finance and promotions

Car companies will have different finance promotions running, one that comes to mind is the zero per cent interest. Often this will come with a caveat such as a balloon to be paid at the end of the term but will use this as their main promotion. As a result, these finance deals are enough to nudge the consumer over the line to finalise their decision.

It’s vital that every buyer reads the terms and conditions of any sale being advertised especially if it seems too good to be true.

In recent times we’re seeing car brands in Australia shifting to a fixed price model, such as Honda and Mercedes-Benz, which allows for less aggressive sales tactics to be used.

With these in mind, it’s important to identify what the car will be used for and how you’ll use it to avoid being influenced by car companies and their slew of promotions.

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