Under the Hood

Value for money versus status symbol: 
Pacific reveals ‘Under the Hood’ auto research

Pacific has revealed the findings of an extensive study into the state of the automotive market and the forces impacting car buyers.

‘Under the Hood’ is the product of a three-month research process integrating qualitative research, analysis of cultural forces at play in the Australian market and quantitative research involving 1,500 auto decision makers aged 18-to-74 from across Australia.

Findings include:

Excessive moderation

While there is a growing trend for moderation and sensibility among consumers, a backlash has manifested with people responding positively to brands that give permission to live on the edge and indulge in excess. In this environment, brands have an opportunity to be the counterpunch providing the encouragement to splurge on purchases such as a new car.

The poisoned planet

The impact of climate change is forcing brands to find ways to help reduce humanity’s impact on the planet. Brands have to keep up or risk being labelled a problem rather than the solution. Car brands are not immune. The tension between reducing our impact on the environment and the need to own a car provides a rich space for innovation auto brands cannot afford to ignore.

Personal space

With the erosion of privacy both on and offline, our cities and roads becoming more crowded as well as our homes with the rise of multi-generational dwellings, cars are taking on a new role in our lives as the providers of personal space. This is particularly true for men giving rise to the term ‘mobile man cave’.


The research also identified a number of broad and generational trends. While the majority of those surveyed listed ‘value for money’ as a key driver when shopping for a car, the definition of ‘value’ was interchangeable. This was also in contrast to having a vehicle they can be proud to drive, this emotional driver being a major factor in vehicle purchases.

Rebecca Alexander-Head, Pacific’s Director of Strategy and Insights, said, “Marketers beware: when conducting traditional qualitative research, it’s all too easy to take consumer playback of rational benefits at face value. What we see as a dominant force is emotional needs at play on a subconscious level.”

Generationally, for young families, compromise is key with the needs of the family superseding all other purchase drivers. This group is extremely time poor and, as such, has the most truncated purchase journey, often riddled with stress. Still, Dads have unique expectations with cars, with men citing a car purchase as one of the most critical signs of social success.

Baby Boomers continue to represent an untapped opportunity with this group cashed up, lacking the anxiety more prevalent among other generations when shopping for a car and being driven by a desire for something better.

Alexander-Head added: “At Pacific’s heart is the ability to connect with audiences through culture and this research has served to deepen our knowledge of the cultural forces impacting auto purchases.”

“The findings are fascinating with ample opportunity for brands to leverage. Top of the list is helping families to resolve the tension felt between the need to compromise and the desire to own a car they can be proud of. And when it comes to appealing to women, a challenge for many car brands, we discovered that a communications strategy making finance appealing to, especially to mothers, will drive category growth.

“We can’t wait to help brands action these findings to better connect with people on the path to auto purchase.”