Automotive is one of the most dynamic, interesting, and polarising markets today. In addition to being one of the more expensive purchases most of us will make, there is an enormous divide between how different demographics, in different countries, view automotive branding.

We spoke with five American millennial women to get their perspective on several topics related to automotive branding and marketing to get an impression of where automotive branding is succeeding, and where it still has room to grow in the States.

Alexandra Gavis, 26, is an international education coordinator from Washington, D.C. and loves to travel.

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Brooklyn Taylor, 23, is a software engineer from Houston, Texas and likes adventure sports.

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Avni Sharma, 25, is a physician from Richmond, Virginia and is a first-generation American born to immigrant parents.

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Molly Hahn, 26, is a systems engineer from Basking Ridge, New Jersey and enjoys running and geology.

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Ashley Riehm, 25, is an emergency medical technician from Cleveland, Ohio and practices martial arts.

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We asked Alexandra, Brooklyn, Avni, Molly, and Ashley just what cars mean to them.

Do you have a car? Tell us about it.

Alexandra: I do! I drive a Honda Civic coupe. My parents bought it for me years ago, and while I love it, I wouldn’t be heartbroken if I ever sold it for another one. I love that it’s reliable, and I’ve even given it a name.

Brooklyn: I don’t own one just yet, but I plan on buying one before I start my new job this summer.

Avni: I love my car! It’s a big sport utility vehicle, which I enjoy because I’m rather short myself. My parents bought it for me when I graduated school, and I’ve given it a name and everything.

Molly: I just bought my first car this year! I’ve named her, and I’m very protective of her.

Ashley: I have one because I need one. She’s old, but she gets the job done. That’s why I love her. 

Do you aspire to own a car?

Brooklyn: Yes. Growing up in Texas, I always anticipated buying a car. In cities where there is good public transportation, they aren’t strictly necessary, but in areas where the public transit is unreliable to not quite sufficient, I feel a lot safer having my own vehicle, and knowing I’m never “stuck,” so to speak.

Alexandra: I have a little coupe now, but I’d really like to own an SUV. I like the visibility and height they offer, and with so many premium options available, they also convey luxury and success.

Molly: While I have one now, I wouldn’t hesitate to sell it if public transportation was better. If I lived in a proper city I would never own one; I wouldn’t need it.

Avni: I love my current car so much, I’ll probably buy the new model when it comes out.

My dream vehicle fits well with a particular lifestyle, and the brand does a great job conveying that. - Highlight to share -

In general, what is your attitude towards cars?

Avni: Cars are an excellent way to get around in a large group, and a great way to go visit family on your own terms.

Molly: Everyone of age in my family has a car; it’s a rite of passage. They are an important item that should be cared for, respected, and understood. It’s why I learned to drive a manual transmission as well as an automatic.

Brooklyn: In Texas, owning a car is important, both socially and for transportation. They’re a way to express yourself; at first I loved sporty cars, but as I got older and tougher, I grew to appreciate pickup trucks and the capability they represent.

Alexandra: Cars give you freedom to move around as you please, but they are a means to an end. They convey me where I need to go; driving is not something I especially enjoy.

Ashley: We have a tenuous relationship at best. When they work properly, they’re a good friend and a partner, almost like a dog. When they break and require expensive repair, they’re my worst enemy.

Do you have any thoughts about specific car brands?

Alexandra: Unless I were rich, I wouldn’t buy anything but a Japanese car; they will run forever and can be fixed nearly anywhere. I do love Range Rovers, but unless I can afford to constantly fix them, I wouldn’t own one.

Molly: I’m interested in cars that are efficient and safe, like Volvos, Mazdas, and Teslas. The recent news about Volkswagen [concerning fraudulent emissions testing] upset me, but if they remade the car and made amends, I would consider them.

Brooklyn: My dream vehicle is a Jeep Wrangler. It just goes well with a particular lifestyle, and [the brand] does a great job conveying that.

If you were looking for a car, how would you go about doing it?

Avni: I would start by doing research online, on independent consumer websites and by reading reviews. Then, I would ask someone I trust to go to the dealership with me. My girlfriends all have multiple stories of male car salesmen treating them like they are uneducated or unable to understand the important features of a car. I am confident in my ability, but not in being treated fairly.

I like to come to dealerships with research; I prefer to be in the know. - Highlight to share -

Molly: When I bought my car this year, I did internet research and went to a specific dealer. I found the exact VIN number for the very car I wanted, and everything. I like to come to dealerships with research; I prefer to be in the know. The internet makes it easy to be an informed consumer.

Alexandra: I would look for certified pre-owned vehicles, guaranteed by the manufacturer. In the secondhand market, it’s much harder to find reliable information about the quality of the car. By paying a small premium to the manufacturer, you get their corporate-backed assurance that everything is in order, and you actually have a company to hold accountable if it isn’t.

Brooklyn: Looking on the internet and reading reviews is the best way to ensure you’re getting a decent deal. That said, I would still bring a friend with me to the dealership. Strength in numbers, after all. 

How would you see yourself using your car?

Molly: Cars are a way to get from Point A to Point B; I don’t enjoy taking car rides just to take car rides. I see my car as a tool, primarily for commuting and eventually for taking my children places.

Avni: A car is a useful tool, and I use mine mainly for driving to work and running errands. That said, cars are special because they’re really personal, and like us, can have a bit of a fun side even when they’re “working.” I can just as easily see myself visiting family, and taking occasional road trips just for fun.

Alexandra: I use it mostly to commute and to travel, as necessary. I’d like a bigger vehicle so I can haul larger items like furniture, though. The more use and utility I can get out of a car, the more I like it.

Brooklyn: I would use mine to make trips to New England to go snowboarding, and for driving around to skate parks [for skateboarding] near me. A car lets you enjoy life, lets you have the fun you want to have. 

Like America itself, the attitudes of American millennial women are all over the map when it comes to car buying. Some see their cars as little more than an extremely useful, rather expensive tool, while others see their car as a lifestyle accessory. Many feel the male-dominated industry doesn’t do enough to address them as equals and educated consumers, but they are using the power of the internet and consumer reviews to level the playing field. In all, the automotive industry would be wise to heed the advice and respond to the needs of women, especially as their buying power continues to grow.

We ask five American women what they think about cars