Sunday 25 September 2016

Car industry 'geared towards men' leaves women alienated

Published 14/02/2016 | 02:30

According to the UK survey, 56pc felt patronised by car advertising. In addition 34pc believed that no car brand understands women.
According to the UK survey, 56pc felt patronised by car advertising. In addition 34pc believed that no car brand understands women.

The car industry is still geared towards men and doesn't get women who feel "disfranchised" by manufacturers, a new survey of 48,000 women in the UK suggests. And staggeringly 90pc of the women surveyed said they would not visit a car dealership without a man.

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It's likely an Irish survey would suggest something very similar and is that any surprise? The motor industry still falls short by failing to realise just how many of its consumers are women and that these consumers are not just "soccer moms" but are as varied as the cars that they buy.

Women buy nearly half the vehicles sold and may influence up to 80pc of the purchasing decisions in the global car market each year, so why are we still treated as passengers, not purchasers?

For years the car industry has only featured women in advertisements as adornments. Even today you would struggle to recall a car advert that features a woman driving, particularly an executive or luxury model.

According to the UK survey, 56pc felt patronised by car advertising. In addition 34pc believed that no car brand understands women.

Meanwhile, the Geneva motor show will open its doors to the public next month and many stands will feature scantily clad women draped across the cars.

Current car advertising does not resonate on an emotional level with women. While the cosmetic industry convinces young girls, before they can even read, that their idea of beauty is the only accepted option, the car industry has already alienated these same young girls. The strong female in designer wear and smeared with lip-gloss on billboards, magazines and television seems to exist in a car-free world. When carmakers do appeal directly to women they are preoccupied with minor design details such as colour and cup holders whereas Kia designer Peter Schreyer, who also designed the Audi TT, says that he has never designed a car for women - instead he designs cars that have an emotional appeal. He wants a car that resonates with people. "You want to be in that car - whether you're a man or a woman."

A significant outcome of the study is that far from being swayed by frivolous details, women buy first and foremost on price, then reliability followed by fuel economy. And it's not only women who are disillusioned - millennials are also not buying cars. Maybe its time for a serious rethink in the car industry particularly in the way we showcase and sell cars. For women who love shopping, why is it that we feel so uncomfortable shopping for cars? The way to endear women to the motor industry is to wake up to the fact that women want advertising, marketing and selling efforts to match the consumer base and not just token gestures. The corporate landscape of the automotive industry must reflect gender diversity and the current retail model needs to move to one where women don't equate buying a car with going to the dentist.

The car industry needs to realise that selling cars to women has little, if anything, to do with pastel shades and handbag hooks.

Sunday Independent Contributing Editor Geraldine Herbert is Editor of Wheels for Women; Auto Ireland, Motoring Correspondent Irish Country Magazine; TodayFM and Newstalk.

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