Dick Potter ruminates on sexism in the car industry.
On a recent short flight – yes, indeed it was to Dubai to road test the Ferrari 812 – I swiped one of my missus’ magazines to while away the hour. Flicking past the ubiquitous accessories’ adverts – I consider myself rather well versed in the content of women’s magazines I’ll have you know, none of that caveman stuff for me – I came across a most interesting article indeed. Basically, it concerned sexism in the car industry. In the car purchasing industry to be precise. Essentially, the author of the article explored the car industry’s emergent response to the male-biased environment which she felt many, but not all, car dealers continue to perpetuate.
It just might be possible to understand the prevalence of male staff in this industry if it were only men that bought and drove cars. However, women now have more disposable income than ever and are, increasingly, the primary customer, buying their own cars, with their own money, for their own pleasure. Bravo for that ladies. Yet, this magazine article maintained, female car purchasers continue to feel their spending power is patronised, rather that recognised and respected by car dealerships.
In a particular country – it shall remain anonymous – a selection of females, across all demographics, was asked the following question. “How would you describe any dealerships you have been to – specifically the atmosphere and environment?” Here are some of the ladies’ responses. Gulp!
-Stale, cold, unfriendly
-Feels like you’re prey in a glass box (have to say
this one was my favourite!)
To be fair, how often do we find women in the car industry, apart from at the front and service desks? Not often enough, right? Might this have something to do with stereotypical traits, such as, caring/nurturing women at the service desk versus pushy/hard-sell men on the shop floor? In my opinion, salesmen who patronise women (on the assumption they know nothing about cars) are very unwise. Often as not, it’s women who make the final purchasing decision, especially for family vehicles. Perhaps, a more balanced gender presence on the showroom floor might help dispel any stereotypical opinions.
The era of billboards and magazines depicting women draped over the bonnet of a V12 are also, thankfully, fading. Another step in the right direction is that cars themselves are forcing changes, rather than car dealerships and manufacturers. Hybrid and electric vehicles, with an emphasis on lifestyle rather than performance, are now the trend that appeal to purchasers, not just females. For many – again, not just females – the car is now a place where more time is spent, after the office and home. This has shifted buyers’ focus from horsepower and engineering to the interior. In essence, both males and females have similar demands when buying a car. Cost, space and safety are just a few things we both consider important, I should imagine.
However, given the increase in female purchasing power, car dealerships would be wise to adapt accordingly. Some dealers already are. Did you know – I confess, I didn’t – Lamborghini has a Female Advisory Board which comprises women from the creative, health and finance industries? How cool is that? You knew Citroen has a female CEO, right? Nope. Me neither. As I finished reading the article, I pondered how the car industry in our neck of the woods is adapting to the changing female consumer? Ladies, do let me know your thoughts and experiences.