As Tesla reveals its new Model X SUV, seems that the electric car giant may have a particularly female-friendly vehicle on its hands. Surprisingly, women have been a relatively unexploited demographic for electric vehicles thus far, and the Model X could well appeal to this niche. Early evidence suggests that women have been drawn to the Model X since pre-orders began, and Tesla may consider this to be a particularly fertile market for the vehicle.
Model X designed for women
It seems that Tesla designed this sport utility vehicle with female drivers very much in mind, and it believes that the completed Model X will achieve its desire of appealing to a female audience. Tesla has set itself some very ambitious sales targets, with the company intending to shift 500,000 vehicles by the end of the decade. Realistically, if it is to achieve this figure, it must attract an entirely new contingent of drivers to the Model S, and apparently considers women to be the ideal target market for the vehicle.
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Until now, Tesla has attracted an overwhelmingly male audience. One might think that female consumers would be environmentally-friendly in outlook, but it is also important to consider that early Tesla purchasers are effectively tech-savvy pioneers. Typically, these characteristics are associated with males, and this is strongly reflected in the fact that women accounted for nearly 13.3 per cent of the Model S market when it hit the road in 2012, according to data from IHS Automotive.
But it seems that the gender ratio will evolve significantly with the release of the Model X, not merely due to the fact that this will more readily suit women. Anecdotal evidence has suggested that females are becoming more comfortable with electric vehicle technology, while the strong safety record of Tesla and its brand recognition are also contributing to more potential female customers.
Tesla attracting more female customers
Statistics clearly indicate that the number of female Tesla consumers is increasing on a yearly basis. By 2013, women accounted for 17.8 per cent of Model S customers, and last year this figure had increased to 21.5 per cent. This number is expected to increase further still this year, and the awarding of a 5-star safety rating to the Model S by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is believed to have played a major role in this steady evolution of the Tesla vehicle in the eyes of female customers.
While SUVs can be top-heavy, Tesla’s vehicles are designed with the electric drivetrain sitting beneath the car, which lowers the center of gravity and minimizes rollover risk. This increases the potential of the demographics of Tesla customers to alter massively when the Model X hits the stores.
Although women account for a minority of vehicle purchasers in the United States, around 40 per cent, they also purchase the majority of small SUV’s, and almost half the small premium SUVs on the market, according to an analysis by J.D. Power & Associates. This means that the Model X can safely target the female market while also relying on a tech-oriented male audience.
And Tesla has very strongly courted the female market from early in the design process. Tesla invited a dozen women to its Palo Alto, California, headquarters for a three-hour focus group led by chief designer Franz von Holzhausen, with the clear intent of appealing to this fertile demographic.
SUV dominant in United States
The Model X is also being released into an American marketplace that is a more than somewhat in love with the SUV. In August of this year, nearly 900,000 light trucks were sold in the United States, compared to 688,000 cars. Small SUV’s, including the BMW X5, the Audi Q5 and the Porsche Cayenne, have proved extremely popular with female drivers, and Tesla is clearly hoping to tap into the US desire for this type of vehicle.
Anticipation for the Model X is certainly significant, and it is not inconceivable that the vehicle may even eat into sales of the existing Model S. Tesla is planning to deliver in the region of 50,000 vehicles by the end of this year, and in an attempt to maintain sales of Model S has now instigated a customer referral program.
Considering the brand penetration of Tesla, it is easy to forget how far the electric car manufacturer has come in a relatively short period of time, and also how embryonic the electric car market still remains. This has been reflected in some of the fluctuations in the Tesla share price, but the future of the company looks quite rosy, with the Model X and Model 3 for Tesla to look forward to.
And it seems that female drivers will play an increasingly important role in the Tesla portfolio going forward.