Approximately 90,000 to 150,000 women are expected to get driving licenses in KSA annually, statistics provided by Frost & Sullivan reveal, which has opened up a plethora of business opportunities in the kingdom.
Saudi’s lifting of the driving ban paves the way for women to be more involved in the workforce in the kingdom due to greater mobility.
And of the course, the auto industry itself is one of the sectors that can attract women’s talents and benefit from their skills.
Saudi women – like most women – often feel more comfortable dealing with female sales staff when it comes to purchasing a new car. They appreciate what they are looking for in a car and can easily relate to what concerns and preferences are shared. The same sentiment when it comes to after sales staff.
This is where car dealers can make efforts to hire female sales people to cater to the needs of their new segment of customers.
Car dealers can employ female staff in every aspect of their business that is directly related to dealing with their women clients.
For instance, female consultants can be hired because incorporating women’s ideas are good for the industry.
With women involved in 80 percent of car-buying decisions, according to Frost & Sullivan, it makes sense to have more of them working in the industry, not just to make female customers comfortable, but to capitalize on their communication and problem-solving skills and attention to detail.
This is where marketing plays a big role.
Car dealers can hire women for their marketing strategies and campaigns because women know better what other women look for in a car. They can come up with creative advertising campaigns taking into account women’s needs and interests when buying a car.
In fact, some of the car dealers in the kingdom acted fast in response to lifting the driving ban.
Sahar Nassif, 63, an outspoken critic of Saudi Arabia’s driving laws, recently woke up to find a twitter message from Ford offering her a free Mustang for her active approach on the cause.
Moreover, other car dealers raced to publish creative campaigns online and in newspapers hailing the new decision.
While dealers can do much to create a greater role for women, manufacturers are also key players in this field.
What can car manufacturers do?
According to Frost and Sullivan, the decree to cancel the driving ban has the potential to have a longstanding impact on how car manufacturers and dealers sell cars to women globally, simply because so many dealers will have to face a significant jump in demand from one specific group of customers.
Manufacturers may even have to include some special features in cars sold to women.
According to Forbes Autos, women and men tend to be different in their tastes for cars.
Women, it said, tend to look for comfort and fun in a car.
“40 percent of women respondents said they prefer vehicles that provide the most comfortable ride, compared to 25 percent of men,” said Forbes Autos, citing a survey by consulting firm Strategic Vision.
“Most women look for comfort, but after that they look for something that is either capable, fun or both,” it added, quoting Alexander Edwards, automotive division president at Strategic Vision.
Forbes Autos says that SUVs with the highest percentage of female primary drivers include convenience features that affect seating for children and occupant safety, which are top priorities for most women.
Moreover, the Institute for Advanced Motoring cites surveys stating that it is women who make the final decision when it comes to buying a car. “It would seem to be basic logic that a manufacturer’s workforce needs to reflect its customer base,” it said.
In fact, SEAT was among the first car manufacturers to involve more women in their production workforce. “Female employees represent 22 per cent of all SEAT’s employees, a level we first achieved in 2014, the Guardian quoted Maria-Angeles Estevez, responsible for equality and diversity at SEAT, as saying.
“Female staff can be found across a range of roles in the company, with the majority employed in the production phase, assembling vehicle pieces,” it added.
Despite the efforts that are still needed to cater to female drivers in the kingdom, a lot has been already done to create a role for women in Saudi’s driving arena.
Careem and Uber
Ride hailing app Careem has said it would look to hire women drivers in Saudi Arabia when the ban on female drivers is lifted in June 2018 and has already established a female-only call centre to create new jobs for Saudi women.
Abdullah Elyas, chief people officer and co-founder of Careem was quoted in media as saying that “Careem’s mission to improve lives and create jobs is fully aligned with this announcement. In Saudi Arabia, we have had the privilege to enable employment for thousands of women by providing them a reliable means to get to work.”
Likewise, Uber announced its plans to sign up women drivers in Saudi Arabia.
Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty, head of Uber’s operations in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, told Bloomberg that Uber wants to create economic opportunities for women as drivers on the Uber platform.
Moreover, Saudi Arabia’s Princess Noura Univerity announced its plan to open a driving school for women.
“Princess Nourah University is preparing to set up a driving school in cooperation with the relevant authorities,” AFP quoted the university as saying.
The opening of a new driving school may trigger other universities to open such schools and academies where women drivers can be employed to teach others how to drive.