82% of Saudi women intend to get a driving license

By Sheena Amos

Women get staunch support from men

DUBAI 10 October 2017: Some 82 per cent of the women in Saudi Arabia are contemplating getting a driving license, when the recent decree allowing women to drive comes into force by June next year.

A study following the royal decree showed the move is expected to uplift the sentiments of females. The biggest emotions expressed by women were related to the feeling that society was progressing the right way (61%), a sense of empowerment (55%) and enhanced career opportunities (46%).

With more women on the move, their career prospects will dramatically improve and the disposable income of households will rise. It is expected to change the very fabric of Saudi society and impact the economy in the long run.

Understanding Sentiment

The study was carried out to understand the early sentiment of Saudi residents and the likely outcome of the royal decree. It was conducted by Kantar TNS, one of the largest global research agencies, conducted a study among Saudi residents in partnership with online panel providers Kantar MobiworkX and Borderless Access.

The study highlights that the sentiment is overall positive. Males support the change and would like the female members of their household to drive.

“This historic decision by the Saudi government changes the automotive landscape in the kingdom and will present long term economic benefits beyond the automotive industry. Our initial research also indicates that the path to purchase will be far from uniform, thereby giving informed marketers an edge over the competition,” said Neal Henriques, Regional Automotive Director for Kantar.

Mr Neal Henriques, Regional Automotive Director for Kantar

While going to work was the key reason to drive (45%) dropping children (39%) was the other expressed reason. Interestingly, about 17% of the intending drivers expected to shop more and indulge in more leisure activities. Combining this with the increase in female disposable income, a flip to the retail, entertainment and F&B sector is anticipated in the near future.

An overwhelming majority of intending drivers (92%) are expected to reduce their reliance on taxis and services such as Uber as a result. Women have also come out strongly in favor of reducing their reliance on personal drivers with over three fourths (80%) of intending drivers expected to reduce their dependency. As a result, a significant impact on usage of public transport (taxi/Uber) and a declining demand for drivers, is expected.

This decree will result in a significant demand surge for new vehicles with some 60 per cent of residents intending to buy a car in the next 3 years and 38% planning this purchase in the next year. Non-premium, small and medium car segments – with an average budget of SAR 63,000 – will be more in demand, with 71% intending to buy in that range.

Premium Cars

However, the market for premium vehicles will grow as well and slightly more than a tenth are expected to pay over SAR 110,000 for these cars. There is a high degree of consistency in findings between males and females, indicating the staunch support of males to the initiative. With males, likely to continue to play a key role in the decision of vehicle make/model, 44% were still undecided on whether to purchase or give an existing vehicle to the woman. Among those who were decided, 57 per cent plan to buy a new car for women and a fourth likely to buy a new vehicle for themselves.

Currently the top 5 brands that women aspire to buy are: Toyota, Hyundai, Ford and Nissan with BMW being the aspirational brand in the premium segment.

Overall, significant economic benefits will accrue to manufacturers, insurers and allied services. OEMs that quickly adapt their lineup to deliver to this audience will capitalize the most on this change. Dealers over time, may need to revamp their sales and after-sales process to cater to the needs to female buyers and relook at their communication strategies keeping this audience in mind.

Demographic Change

The reduction in drivers over time will affect the demographic profile at the lower end of the spectrum and impact categories largely dependent on them such as CSDs and snacks. Differentiation will drive survival in the tech enabled transportation business. Uber and Careem will need to differentiate themselves to garner a larger share of a declining market and retain relevance among its female patrons, e.g. offering female Uber drivers.

“We expect to see growth in the medium passenger cars and medium SUV segment as female drivers seek a combination of space, practicality and convenience. There might also be vehicle shifts within the household with existing vehicles being given to family members and new ones purchased. Finally, along with increased new car sales, we expect to see growth in used car transactions – in what looks set to be a dynamic market,” said Nissan Middle East CMO Fadi Ghosn.

Study Highlights

  • Automotive industry and job market set to grow
  • Key beneficiary: Small and medium sized vehicle brands such as Toyota, Hyundai, Ford and Nissan among the top 5 brands that women aspire to buy, BMW being the aspirational brand in the premium segment.
  • 82 percent of Saudi women intend to get driving license; driving to work as their primary motivation and males are endorsing this change.
  • 60% intend to buy a car in next 3 years; 38 percent in 2018; non-premium, small and medium car segments more in demand
  • Taxi and Uber services to suffer a setback with declining demand for hired transportation
  • The initiative to give boost to retail, entertainment, Food and Beverages sectors

KSA Women Drivers