The automotive industry is showing early signs of becoming one of 2017’s fastest evolving industries. Electricity and hydrogen now power our vehicles straight out of the pages of a sci-fi thriller down paved streets that turn into our driveways.

To better understand what’s driving this change, ThinkNow Research surveyed a representative sample of U.S. Hispanics, African-Americans, Asians, and non-Hispanic whites regarding their vehicle purchasing habits. ThinkNow Drive™ is our latest research study that focuses on automobile buying trends and habits.

In this study, one segment, in particular, accelerates toward trendsetter status in the automotive market – African-American consumers.

African-Americans will buy or lease a car in 2017.

Who plans to purchase or lease a new car, truck or SUV in 2017? African-Americans top the list, with 72%* planning to buy within the year. And 25% of these purchases will occur within the next three months. This is significantly more than vehicle purchases expected by Asians, only 17% of whom intend to buy a vehicle within the next three months.

Auto Purchase Intent

*Are you planning to purchase or lease a new car, truck or SUV?

So, as marketers, you must figure out how to get your message in front of African-American consumers looking to purchase a vehicle this year. But how do you do that? Our survey participants provide the answer. When asked, “Where do you seek out information about buying or leasing a new car?”, websites and friends and family top their list of trusted resources.

Okay, so no surprises there. But while print ads have fallen out of favor with some marketers, newspaper ads make an unexpected appearance in the data.

Auto Purchase Information

It turns out print isn’t dead after all—at least not in this situation. Nearly 30% of African-Americans peruse the newspaper when considering a vehicle purchase.

Adoption of autonomous auto tech is on the rise.

African-Americans appear ready to embrace the latest advances in autonomous auto technologies.

Autonomus Tech

When asked, “How comfortable are you with the following emerging auto technologies?”, African-Americans revealed a relatively high comfort level with fully-autonomous (no-human driver necessary) vehicle technology, falling just below Hispanics and on par with Whites in this area.

At 68%, African-Americans are second only to Asians in feeling at ease with semi-autonomous driving (requiring some human intervention).

Next, we looked at engine and fuel technology advances. African-Americans again lead the way in acceptance of new technologies such as electric only and hydrogen powered cars:

Engine Tech

African-Americans top the list along with Hispanics, both at 8%, in preferring electric engines. Hydrogen, an alternative fuel source that’s making inroads into the public consciousness, is preferred by 4% of African-Americans, directionally higher than all other participants.

What’s driving this shift toward technologically advanced vehicle features? When asked to rank the five most important attributes they seek in a vehicle, participants in all demographics placed safety at the top.

Prestige is a factor when comparing vehicles pre-sale.

Looking at what stands out for African-Americans, we see a notable difference in the prestige factor:

Important Auto Attributes

To 8% of African-Americans, prestige is an important aspect to consider when comparing vehicles. Prestige ranks even higher for Hispanics (at 11%) but is less important to Asians and Whites.

4 Things to remember about African-American automobile buying trends and habits

  • African-Americans are the demographic segment most likely to purchase vehicles in 2017.
  • They are well-informed consumers who seek out information from online and print sources.
  • African-Americans appreciate advanced technologies such as autonomous and engine/fuel tech.
  • Since an element of prestige is now widely associated with safer autonomous technologies and ecologically friendly fuel alternatives, African-American consumers are poised to become the trendsetters toward a safer and greener highway.

For more information on Hispanic, Asian, and non-Hispanic white consumers, contact us today to view our extended data tables for the ThinkNow Drive™ study.