As women influence an estimated 80% — or more — of auto purchases, the auto industry has long targeted female buyers. Now, the industry is facing a majority of women drivers, not just buyers. According to Frost & Sullivan and the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, women now make up the majority of driver’s license holders in the United States. Canada and the U.K. are not far behind, as women have nearly overtaken men as driver’s license holders in Canada and female U.K. drivers are expected to surpass men by 2016. The trend of increasing female drivers has also reportedly translated to a 50% increase in women truck drivers since 2005, a traditionally male-dominated industry. 

So what does the changing face of the average driver mean for the auto industry? The demographic shift will play out in every facet of business, including product development, design, energy efficiency, safety, marketing, and sales. The shift will also likely influence the percentage and makeup of female employees in the auto industry as manufacturers, dealers, repair facilities, service centers, and even auto shows continue to focus on what women want in a car.

One area where change has already begun to occur is in the auto sales force, which is the sector most visible to auto buyers. According to the 2013 Dealership Workforce Study by the National Automobile Dealers Association, in 2012 the percentage of female new hires at dealerships rose from 17% to 19%. This trend is only expected to increase along with the percentage of women drivers in the U.S. Every business that touches the auto industry should likewise prepare for change as women take the wheel, both in the U.S. and abroad.