Welcome to the driver’s seat: Which automakers are doing the best job of welcoming female drivers in Saudi Arabia

It’s been a month since women have been legally allowed to drive in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and I wanted to get a sense for how this massive new audience of drivers was being welcomed by the world’s automakers.

I spent time visiting the Saudi Arabia websites of a number of automakers, all included in the 2018 Web Globalization Report Card.

And, so far, I’d say that most global automakers are treading slowly, too slowly, in welcoming their new customers.

There were two notable standouts, however, that I want to mention: Ford and Audio.

As a bit of background, more than half of the websites I benchmark for the annual Report Card now support Arabic. And most of the automakers studied support partially or largely localized websites for Saudi Arabia.

Now onto the two standout automakers…

Ford has the most striking home page, shown here:

In English, the headline reads: You Drive in Front. Welcome to the Driver’s Seat.

And when you click on the main link you’ll see this visual:

Audi also leads with a bold, welcoming message: Sometimes history is written. This time, it is driven.

Clicking on the main link takes you to a video that features a husband and wife leaving the house and getting into their Audi. But instead of the man getting into the driver’s seat, we see the woman taking the wheel. In most other regions of the world, this would not be an attention-grabbing video; but Saudi Arabia is not most other regions.

Audi also includes a link to a test drive request form, a very nice feature.

Beyond Ford and Audi, there are a handful of positive examples from other automakers responding to this doubling of potential drivers:

  • Volkswagen features a TV ad that focuses on female drivers, with one behind the driver’s seat.
  • Mercedes has a Mercedes She global promotional campaign that does a degree of localization for women in the Middle East, but not nearly enough in my opinion.
  • Subaru and Toyota have been active on social media in welcoming female drivers. Shown below are examples from Twitter and Instagram:

The automakers not mentioned here are not doing nearly enough to welcome their new customers (if anything at all) — and I suspect this is not going without notice. Web localization is about respect and respect is about languages, cultures, and people.

To learn more about website globalization best practices in the auto industry and beyond, check out the 2018 Web Globalization Report Card.

BMW: The best global automotive website of 2018

For the 2018 Web Globalization Report Card, we studied the following 16 automotive websites:

  1. Audi
  2. BMW
  3. Chevrolet
  4. Ford
  5. Honda
  6. Hyundai
  7. Land Rover
  8. Lexus
  9. Mercedes
  10. Mini
  11. Nissan
  12. Subaru
  13. Tesla
  14. Toyota
  15. Volkswagen
  16. Volvo Cars

This year, BMW unseated Nissan, reclaiming the top spot. Both BMW and Nissan made the 25 list of best global websites.

BMW deserves credit for an increased focus on local-language social content — as well as the promotion of this content on its local websites. It also made slight improvements to its global template over the past year.

Here are a few highlights from the report:

  • The automotive sector has long been a leader in languages. The average number of languages supported by these 16 websites is an impressive 41 languages.
  • Mercedes most recently added two new local websites (and languages) raising its language total to 44. The company has been slowly (perhaps too slowly) rolling out a responsive design.
  • When it comes to global navigation, no automotive website stands apart. Too many automotive websites either bury the global gateway in the footer or overlook it entirely. Technologies like geolocation and content negotiation are not utilized to the degree that they could be to improve the user experience. 
  • What’s the best global website among American-based automotive companies? That would be Chevrolet. Among other best practices, Chevy does a good job of supporting Spanish for the US market. Note the bilingual toggle for US Spanish and English speakers:

  • Subaru was a new addition to the Report Card this year. With support for 39 languages, it holds its own with the other global auto brands.
  • Ford made a notable improvement to its global navigation over the past year. As shown below, the website added a globe icon in the header:

Currently, this gateway only allows toggling between Spanish and English (similar to other automotive websites). Ultimately, we believe its function will expand to enable better global navigation.

  • Automotive companies still have a long ways to go in improving global consistency and navigation. They decentralized structures have historically prevented them from working globally in this regard. And it’s easy to see how fragmented a site from Toyota or Chevrolet appears when compared with Tesla. Granted, Tesla supports a fraction of the number of models, but the architecture of the Tesla website ensures that it can scale better than the legacy sites of other automotive companies.
  • That said, even Tesla could improve its global navigation. Its gateway link is buried in the footer:

Tesla relies too heavily on flags for navigation. I believe it’s just a matter of time before this strategy shifts.

For more information, check out the Web Globalization Report Card.

If you’d like a report that includes only the automative benchmark profiles, you can purchase the Automotive Websites edition.

Car companies embrace global automotive platforms but resist global website platforms

Here is Subaru’s new global automotive platform:

subaru_global_platform

Toyota also has a global platform, shown here:

toyota_global_platform

I’ve long made the case that a global auto platform is analogous to a global website or software platform.

You want a design that can be adapted to many different countries, and many different cultures and demographics within those countries. And as you see here, the global platform is skeletal in nature. A steering wheel may be positioned on either side, depending in the market. Entirely different body styles may be attached to the platform.

Similarly, a global website platform is also skeletal in nature, flexible enough to support different writing systems, visuals, network speeds and computing devices.

Ironically, although car companies value global automotive platforms they have so far largely yet failed to prioritize global website platforms.

While BMW emerged as the best global automotive website in the 2016 Web Globalization Report Card, this category is still very much up for grabs.

Too often, we see we designs vary dramatically by country or region. Shown here are the variations of Toyota.

toyota_global

I should note that Toyota does use a consistent European template, but this is not a global template. Now contrast Toyota with Facebook:

facebook

Global templates aren’t easy to achieve, particularly within companies that are highly decentralized. But if a company can create a global template for its core products it can also create a global template for its websites.

To learn more, check out of the Web Globalization Report Card.