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This Vancouver start-up is helping women shop for cars more easily

The B.C. auto industry is evolving to open doors for more women to come in, say experts.
Vivian Liu, founder of Making Auto Easy, will host the Women's Auto Show on March 23 and 24 at this year's Vancouver International Auto Show.

Women are a key influencer of vehicle purchasing decisions but only a fraction of them feel confident about buying vehicles on their own, statistics show.

A Vancouver-based start-up aims to change that.

Vivian Liu launched Make Auto Easy (MAE) in 2022. Her online platform is meant to help women car shoppers find the vehicles that match their needs more easily.

Liu is also hosting the Vancouver International Auto Show’s first Women’s Auto Show, a dedicated space for women to learn and share their experiences about cars, March 23-24.

“[MAE] helps people discover their options like online dating but for cars,” said Liu.

“If you build your profile and we show you all the cars that match your profile … [it’s] based on a side-by-side comparison chart that allows people to make decisions really quickly, because it only shows the information that they need to make decisions for themselves or their families.”

The idea of launching MAE started when Liu, who worked in the auto industry, sensed a gap between the information available for car shoppers and what many women shoppers were looking for.

“Throughout my experience, there's nothing out there that’s really tailored specifically to women,” she said.

For example, many women shopping for a new vehicle care more about things such as how it works with a car seat for the child and where they can put their purse, but “when you go online and look at information, they are always feeding you horsepower, torque,” according to Liu.

“We want to make sure that what we show them is jargon-free and allows them to make a decision faster.”

Women influence 85 per cent of vehicle purchasing decisions and buy 65 per cent of new vehicles, but only 38 per cent of women feel confident about buying a vehicle, according to a 2019 study from CDK Global.

And 62 per cent of female jobseekers said their negative view of the car-buying process prevented them from working in the sector.

Liu said other factors such as the fact that the industry is traditionally male-dominated as well as knowledge gaps when growing up have also resulted in women feeling less comfortable shopping for cars on their own.

“Roughly 30 per cent of the auto show attendees are female and we know that is a segment that is growing. We wanted to create an opportunity to engage with a larger female audience this year of the show,” said Eric Nicholl, executive director of Vancouver International Auto Show.

An evolving industry

The traditionally male-dominated industry is slowly changing as more women have the consumer power to shop for their cars and more female employees work in the industry, according to experts.

Ann Marie Clark, acting chairwoman of the New Car Dealers Association of BC and owner of two dealerships in the province, said she has seen more women walking into car stores in recent years and around a quarter of the store staff are women.

There are also more conversations going on about diversity in the industry, according to Clark, who is the first female acting chair of the 29-year-old organization.

“Independence of income allows for women to just be the sole owners, which has happened for a long time, but I think the comfort level seems to have increased,” she said.

As women buyers take up a larger share in the car-buying market compared to a few years ago, companies and dealerships have recognized and adapted to the trend to further tap into the opportunities.

“When you walk into a store, whether it be sales or parts or service, there's more female presence … which makes it more comfortable for women to come to the business,” said Clark.

“Advertising all the way from the [manufacturers], I think they're very aware of the demographic of women and different generations. … As an industry, we're slowly moving around to making sure that we're opening the doors for women to come in.”

Nicholl said the industry sometimes “doesn’t do a very good job” in education and awareness around automobiles, and he hopes the Vancouver International Auto Show, as well as the Women’s Auto Show on the site, will help address that and provide a safe space for questions to be asked around cars.

“[The auto industry] generates about $17 billion in annual GDP to the province … It’s an untapped market for women who are seeking a career opportunity to come join us in the automotive world.”

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