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Buying the Family Car - US - July 2012

According to the U.S. Census Bureau there were over 115 million households in the U.S. in 2011 and this number is growing. As most households need a vehicle that can accommodate the many needs of a family, how automakers market family cars is crucial to their ability to increase sales.

This report provides an up-close look at how consumers buy family cars, including:

  • How has the family car market shifted in the past few years following the recession? Which segments of family cars are selling the best and why?
  • How are family car-buyers responding to current issues such as the high price of gasoline, high used car prices, available financing, increased use of in-car entertainment, and the historically high age of the U.S. fleet?
  • What types of family cars do consumers own today? What changes are expected in the future?
  • Who is involved in the family car decision-making process? How have women’s roles in this capacity changed, and what are marketers doing in response?
  • Where do parents look when deciding to buy a family car? What might consumer trends tell marketers about building strategies to tap into specific demographics?
  • What do consumers look for when buying a family car?
  • How are consumers using the family car and what features and/or benefits might be most valuable to their needs?

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Table of contents

  1. Scope and Themes

    • What you need to know
      • Definition
        • Data sources
          • Sales data
            • Consumer survey data
              • Abbreviations and terms
                • Abbreviations
                  • Terms
                  • Executive Summary

                      • The market
                        • Family car sales ride wave of overall recovery in auto sales
                          • Family car sales forecast to reach pre-recession peak by 2017
                            • Figure 1: Total U.S. unit sales of family-size vehicles, 2006-12
                            • Figure 2: Fan chart forecast of total U.S. family car unit sales, 2007-17
                          • Market factors
                            • Old cars need replacing as average age reaches 11 years
                              • Figure 3: Model year of primary family car, March 2012
                            • High fuel costs impact family car buyers
                              • High used car prices may persuade families to buy new
                                • Mobile apps let families compare prices, end haggling
                                  • Market segmentation
                                    • CSUVs replace SUVs as family car of choice
                                      • Figure 4: Total U.S. unit sales of SUVs vs. CSUVs, 2007-12
                                    • Large cars lose relevancy as CSUVs provide spacious, affordable option
                                      • Rebranded as cool, minivan sales increase for second consecutive year
                                        • The consumer
                                          • Family car decisions involve mom too
                                            • Figure 5: Women's involvement in the family vehicle purchase decision, March 2012
                                          • Cost matters most for family car buyers
                                            • Figure 6: Important factors in the purchase of a family vehicle, March 2012
                                          • Safety most valued feature, especially among women
                                            • Figure 7: Features deemed important in a family car, by gender, March 2012
                                          • Grocery shopping most common use, though large need for versatility
                                            • Figure 8: Everyday activities family car mostly used for, March 2012
                                          • What we think
                                          • Issues in the Market

                                              • Do fuel prices matter?
                                                • How to market fuel efficiency?
                                                  • What if gasoline prices decline?
                                                  • Insights and Opportunities

                                                    • Parents involving kids in car-buying decision, changing marketing dynamic
                                                      • As families tighten belts, costs of owning car in spotlight
                                                      • Inspire Insights

                                                          • Trend: Experience Is All
                                                            • Trend: Influentials
                                                            • Market Size

                                                                • Key points
                                                                  • Family car sales strong for second consecutive year
                                                                    • Figure 9: Total U.S. unit sales of family-size vehicles, 2007-17
                                                                  • Fan chart forecast
                                                                      • Figure 10: Fan chart forecast of total U.S. family car unit sales, 2007-17
                                                                  • Market Drivers

                                                                    • Key points
                                                                      • Rising fuel costs impact market for larger, family cars
                                                                          • Figure 11: Average U.S. regular gas price, 48-month average, June 2012
                                                                        • Family cars soon need replacing as average age of cars at record high
                                                                            • Figure 12: Average age and number of passenger cars and light trucks in operation, 2006-11
                                                                          • Automakers rebrand minivan as stylish, cool option for parents
                                                                            • High used-car prices may push more families to buy new
                                                                              • Price comparison mobile apps change the way consumers buy cars
                                                                              • Segment Performance—Overview

                                                                                  • Key points
                                                                                    • CSUVs replace SUVs as most popular family car
                                                                                        • Figure 13: Total U.S. unit sales of family-size vehicles, by segment, 2009 and 2011
                                                                                    • Segment Performance—Large Cars

                                                                                      • Key points
                                                                                        • Large cars losing luster as consumers rush to buy CSUVs
                                                                                          • Figure 14: Total U.S. unit sales of large cars, 2007-12
                                                                                      • Segment Performance—SUVs

                                                                                        • Key points
                                                                                          • SUV sales plummet with concerns over high fuel price and recession
                                                                                              • Figure 15: Total U.S. unit sales of SUVs, 2007-12
                                                                                          • Segment Performance—CSUVs

                                                                                            • Key points
                                                                                              • More than 3 million CSUVs sold as consumers trade size for style
                                                                                                  • Figure 16: Total U.S. unit sales of CSUVs, 2007-12
                                                                                              • Segment Performance—Minivans

                                                                                                • Key points
                                                                                                  • Recast as cool, minivans are returning as a popular family car option
                                                                                                      • Figure 17: Total U.S. unit sales of minivans, 2007-12
                                                                                                  • Innovations and Innovators

                                                                                                    • GM prototype brings fun to the back seat widow
                                                                                                      • Nissan Quest Minivan System reduces odors and allergens
                                                                                                      • Marketing Strategies

                                                                                                        • Seeking female audience, automakers turn to “mommy bloggers”
                                                                                                          • GM pulls paid-ad Facebook platform, prompting new approach to social media
                                                                                                            • Marketers use several methods to emphasize safety
                                                                                                              • Infiniti ad shows safety features provide relief in emotional ad
                                                                                                                • Figure 18: Infiniti Ad, even before you do, April 2012
                                                                                                              • Mercedes markets safety innovations as cutting-edge to luxury buyers
                                                                                                                • Figure 19: Mercedes Ad, In the blink of an eye, April 2012
                                                                                                              • Ads prioritize parents’ needs over their children
                                                                                                                • Dodge ad reminds parents they are in control
                                                                                                                  • Figure 20: Dodge Ad, Symphony Hall, September 2011
                                                                                                                • Surprising twist emphasizes family car versatility
                                                                                                                  • Figure 21: Dodge Ad, Girls Night Out, June 2012
                                                                                                                • Calling out to consumers, Chevrolet says its brand is listening
                                                                                                                  • Figure 22: Chevy Ad, Drivers have told us, July, 2011
                                                                                                              • Type of Family Car Owned

                                                                                                                • Key points
                                                                                                                  • SUVs most popular family car
                                                                                                                      • Figure 23: Type of family car owned, primary vs. secondary vehicle, March 2012
                                                                                                                    • CSUVs popular with young families, new buyers
                                                                                                                        • Figure 24: Type of family car owned, primary vehicle, by age, March 2012
                                                                                                                      • SUV and CSUV ownership increases with household income
                                                                                                                        • Figure 25: Type of family car owned, primary vehicle, by household income, March 2012
                                                                                                                      • Larger families buy minivans
                                                                                                                        • Figure 26: Type of family car owned, primary vehicle, by number of children in household, March 2012
                                                                                                                    • Age of primary family car

                                                                                                                      • Key points
                                                                                                                        • Two-thirds of vehicles owned are 2005 model or later
                                                                                                                          • Figure 27: Model year of primary family car, by gender, March 2012
                                                                                                                        • Higher household income linked with newer cars
                                                                                                                          • Figure 28: Model year of primary family car, by household income, March 2012
                                                                                                                        • Glut of older minivans on the road
                                                                                                                          • Figure 29: Type of family car owned, by model year of primary family car, March 2012
                                                                                                                      • New vs. Used

                                                                                                                        • Key points
                                                                                                                          • Even split between new/used buyers
                                                                                                                              • Figure 30: Incidence of buying new vs. used family car, by gender, March 2012
                                                                                                                            • $75K household income level presents tipping point for buyers
                                                                                                                              • Figure 31: Incidence of buying new vs. used family car, by household income, March 2012
                                                                                                                            • Larger families more likely to buy used
                                                                                                                              • Figure 32: Incidence of buying new vs. used family car, by number of children in household, March 2012
                                                                                                                          • Role of Women in the Purchase of the Family Vehicle

                                                                                                                            • Key points
                                                                                                                              • Car-buying decisions involve both parents
                                                                                                                                  • Figure 33: Purchase involvement, by gender, March 2012
                                                                                                                              • Important Factors in The Purchase of a Family Vehicle

                                                                                                                                • Key points
                                                                                                                                  • Cost factors most important when buying a car
                                                                                                                                      • Figure 34: Important factors in the purchase of a family vehicle, by gender, March 2012
                                                                                                                                    • Multiple factors influence young, first-time buyers
                                                                                                                                        • Figure 35: Important factors in the purchase of a family vehicle, by age, March 2012
                                                                                                                                      • Middle-income parents influenced by many factors
                                                                                                                                        • Figure 36: Important factors in the purchase of a family vehicle, by household income, March 2012
                                                                                                                                    • What Features Are Important to Family Car Owners?

                                                                                                                                      • Key points
                                                                                                                                        • Safety tops concerns, especially among women
                                                                                                                                            • Figure 37: Features deemed important in a family car, by gender, March 2012
                                                                                                                                          • Young respondents want it all
                                                                                                                                            • Figure 38: Features deemed important in a family car, by age, March 2012
                                                                                                                                        • Everyday Uses of the Family Car

                                                                                                                                          • Key points
                                                                                                                                            • Grocery shopping is most common use of the family car
                                                                                                                                                • Figure 39: Everyday activities requiring use of family car, by gender, March 2012
                                                                                                                                              • One-third of 18-34 year-olds use car for work other than commuting
                                                                                                                                                • Figure 40: Everyday activities requiring use of family car, by age, March 2012
                                                                                                                                              • Parents who use family car for carpooling influenced by friends, family
                                                                                                                                                • Figure 41: Important factors in the purchase of a family vehicle, by everyday activities requiring use of family car, March 2012
                                                                                                                                            • Non-everyday, Other Uses For The Family Car

                                                                                                                                              • Key points
                                                                                                                                                • Majority of respondents use family vehicle for vacations
                                                                                                                                                    • Figure 42: Frequency of using family car for specific other, non-everyday travel, by gender, March 2012
                                                                                                                                                  • Young parents frequently using family car for outdoor activities
                                                                                                                                                    • Figure 43: Frequency of using family car for specific other, non-everyday travel, by age, March 2012
                                                                                                                                                  • More-affluent families vacation more, need in-car entertainment
                                                                                                                                                      • Figure 44: Frequency of using family car for specific other, non-everyday travel, by household income, March 2012
                                                                                                                                                  • Impact of Race and Hispanic Origin

                                                                                                                                                    • Key points
                                                                                                                                                      • Hispanic families need more size than midsize sedan
                                                                                                                                                        • Figure 45: Type of family car owned, by race/Hispanic origin, March 2012
                                                                                                                                                      • Hispanics twice as likely to own old cars
                                                                                                                                                        • Figure 46: Model year of primary family car, by race/Hispanic origin, March 2012
                                                                                                                                                      • Hispanics need vehicles that can accommodate large families
                                                                                                                                                          • Figure 47: Features deemed important in a family car, by race/Hispanic origin, March 2012
                                                                                                                                                        • One-third of Hispanics use family car to store work items
                                                                                                                                                          • Figure 48: Everyday activities requiring use of family car, by race/Hispanic origin, March 2012
                                                                                                                                                      • Appendix—Other Useful Tables

                                                                                                                                                          • Figure 49: Type of family car owned, by bought new vs. used, March 2012
                                                                                                                                                          • Figure 50: Important factors in the purchase of a family vehicle, by number of children in household, March 2012
                                                                                                                                                      • Appendix—Trade Associations

                                                                                                                                                        Companies Covered

                                                                                                                                                        • Audi of America Inc
                                                                                                                                                        • Ford Motor Company (USA)
                                                                                                                                                        • General Motors Corporation
                                                                                                                                                        • Honda Motor Co., Ltd
                                                                                                                                                        • Hyundai Motor America
                                                                                                                                                        • Nissan North America, Inc.
                                                                                                                                                        • Toyota Motor Corporation USA
                                                                                                                                                        • Volkswagen of America, Inc.

                                                                                                                                                        Buying the Family Car - US - July 2012

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