Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Women and cars

What role do women play in the design of cars? It’s true that when we see hot car designers they are usually cool guys with attitude, but recently I’ve sensed a shift. People in the industry are talking about what women use cars for, about their desire for safety and security, and about fashion. They are even going beyond with special teams of women engineers and women being allowed to contribute to color and trim. Yes, the automobile as an object of desire for women as well as men is with us. Finally.

For women the car plays many different roles in her life, but not many of them envisage themselves in a Mommy Wagon. OK, a lot of women have to drive kids, dogs and shopping back and forth across town, but they see themselves as individuals with flair, not the Transport Department. The automaker who has empathy with the complex demands and aspirations of women will win.

Empathy starts with insights. Here are three, gleaned from a handful of reports I have seen recently, into women and the vehicles they could love.

Women are independent. They’ve got money and increasingly they’ve got confidence. Put those two together and you’ve got more and more women eager to choose the vehicle for the household. 30 percent of working women in the US earn more than their husbands. Sure you’ve got to factor in some pester power from the kids, but in many households, women have the final word.

Women care about the environment. Guys might still want to put the pedal to the metal, but for at least 20 percent of women fuel efficiency is huge. When you put that 20 percent together with the number of women (60 percent) who research their car purchases online, you’re confronted with the easiest question for anyone buying a car to ask: “How many miles to the gallon does it do?” This question is a challenge dealers and auto companies are starting to take seriously. They’ll have to do better than “it’ll get you there and back”. It’s not simply driven by commuting costs, it’s inspired by wanting to make a contribution to improving sustainability.

Women love their families. OK, that’s a no-brainer! But while men’s concern about safety is affected by speed, styling and status, women’s passion for security is a pure burning flame. In their famous 'What Women Want' study, Good Housekeeping and JD Power found that even in 2004, safety was number one in how women decided the car they’d buy. In fact, 77.8 percent wanted safety over style.

2 comments:

Jim Donovan said...

Kevin - you should know better than this. Stated intentions (especially "good" ones) separated from action are not the same as demonstrated behaviours - a well-documented phenomenon of such surveys. We all say we'll eat less, exercise more, but do our actual behaviours support this? Only in some people. I suspect this women & safety linkage is the same.
What cars did women actually buy and why (assuming they tell you the truth)? I 'd lay a small wager that,for most buyers, brand chic and style - colour, looks, coolness, etc. - still play a more important role than an unseen hygiene feature.

Women petrol-heads are a separate case, where intentions may well match behaviours, because studying the options is part of the fun.

Allison O'Neill said...

Haha "The transport department"! I think women have ALWAYS played a huge role in the design of cars through the male car designers as they want women to check them out when they cruise past in it...! I think that is a huge factor, consciously or not. Oh how we women rule the world!