NEWS21 March 2012

TNS studies car buying in China

Asia Pacific

CHINA— TNS has completed a major multi-client study of car buying in China, which tracked 1,200 people over four months.

The Automotive Path to Purchase Study (Tapps) was backed by a Chinese car maker and two European manufacturers.

TNS recruited people who said they intended to buy a car in the next six months, and asked them to keep an online diary of their activities. Participants also agreed to have their web usage tracked using a plugin installed on their computers and took part in ad hoc online discussion groups.

The agency claims Tapps is the first study to track behaviour during the car-buying process on this scale.

TNS’s global development director Andy Turton (pictured) said the online methodology “works just fine” in China for new car buyers and gets around some of the limitations of how research into car buying has been done in the past. “Asking people to cast their minds back over several months and tell us what they did (which is traditionally what we’ve done in automotive research), was always a difficult thing to swallow. Less so when it was a few media and there were relatively few makes and models of car to think about, but in the current market where there’s so much media, people just can’t remember what they did the previous day.”

Results highlighted the heavy reliance of Chinese consumers on online information sources, the relatively high levels of trust they have in car dealers (compared to western markets) and their willingness to push for discounts. TNS said there are also opportunities for manufacturers to build stronger brands, as loyalty levels are currently low and many buyers struggle to reach a decision.

TNS plans to run Tapps in the UK, Germany, France, Italy and Spain, with results available early next year. It also hopes to take the study to the US, Russia and Brazil.