Tesla Motors Inc based its design for the Model X SUV on inputs from a soccer mom focus group, Bloomberg’s Dana Hall wrote late yesterday.
Very early in the design process, the automaker invited a dozen women, most of whom drove SUVs and minivans, to its Palo Alto headquarters for an interactive session. Design chief Franz von Holzhausen headed the discussion. The participants were asked what they liked and didn’t like about their vehicles. Safety was the biggest issue, followed by the availability of a third row. Another common concern was the ease of getting kids in and out of their seats.
Tesla Needs Women to Meet its Ambitious Sales Target
Tesla Motors Inc designed the Model X SUV in part to draw more female drivers. If the automaker is to achieve its formidable annual sales target of 500,000 units by 2020, it has to attract a whole new segment of buyers. And the company is right in targeting women drivers, who account for more than half of crossover SUV sales in the U.S.
A majority of Tesla Motor’s initial customers were tech-savvy male enthusiasts. When in 2012 the Model S hit the market, women made up just about 13 percent of the electric sedan’s U.S. customers.
But as safety records improved, and the Tesla brand name gained acceptance, more and more women became comfortable in making the shift to the electric vehicle. According to data from IHS Automotive, by 2013, women accounted for 18 percent of Model S’s U.S. registrations. That figure went up to 21.5 percent in 2014 after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration awarded the Model S a 5-star safety rating.
Tesla Motors Inc is expecting to accelerate that changing buyer demography with the Model X. Women buy 40 percent of cars in the U.S. However when it comes to small SUVs that number jumps to 53 percent.
“With the S, we might be something like two-thirds male,” Elon Musk said earlier this year. “With the X, I think we probably will be slightly majority female.”
The Demand for SUVs is Growing
Musk announced the Model X in a glitzy Los Angeles event in February 2012. More than three and a half years later, the first few limited editions will be handed over to board members and close friends of the company on September 29 at Tesla’s factory in Fremont.
Americans are projected to buy over 17 million new vehicles this year. And the recent surge in demand for trucks and SUVs is only expected to get stronger. Last month saw the sale of more than 889,000 light trucks in the U.S., compared to 688,000 cars.
Women are the dominant buyers in the crossover SUV segment. Driver height gives them a feeling of safety because having a good view of the road is really important to women. They generally are also pragmatic buyers, and realize that SUVs bring in much needed flexibility. So when Tesla Motors Inc rolls-out its electric version, don’t be surprised if the majority of new buyers are women.