up appeals to women buyers
Ladies, start your engines.
Manufacturers are revving up efforts to appeal to the huge female market through the design of vehicles and advertisements showing the ease and enjoyment connected with particular cars.
"We want to keep the woman in mind when designing the vehicles," says Crystal Windham, one of General Motors' lead car designers.
For example, the 2008 Chevy Malibu can come in bold exteriors such as laser blue metallic and interior fabric colors such as cashmere, a light brown.
Moroccan brown, a seat color
choice in the Saturn Aura, is an aggressive
color that has been more popular than the
company predicted, she says.
BMW, for example, offers leather
seats that reflect the sun 20 degrees cooler,
which are specifically designed for women
and children, said Courtney Caldwell, editor
in chief and publisher of Road & Travel
Windham explains GM also paid attention to comfort and storage features that would appeal to women "to complement their complex lives." The 2008 Malibu also has a new center console with an adjustable armrest that opens up to a bin large enough to hold a purse. A concealed storage bin on the car's instrument panel can hold items such as CDs, sunglasses, receipts and wallets.
"More than ever before,
women are influencing the decisions of the
vehicle sales. With that in mind, women are
more educated, and we have this huge influence,"
says Windham, who focuses on midsize car interiors.
"So when you appeal to women, and you
design with them in mind, I think you're also
going to appeal to men in a certain aspect."
Women influence the automobile-buying
decision of a household 85 percent of the
time, and buy more than half of the cars themselves,
according to data from Diversity Best Practices,
an organization based in Washington, D.C.
Battle of the sexes
Manufacturers have become much better at addressing women's needs, says Caldwell. "They didn't even know they had a women's market 20 years ago. Now, of course, all they do is market to women in a variety of ways."
But with that in mind, they try to keep their vehicles from becoming known as a "chick car," because men are sensitive about those labels. For example, features such as adjustable pedals would appeal to shorter people, no matter the gender. Automakers might use a female in a commercial, but would not specifically say, "These are for women," Caldwell says.
Car makers in the past several years appear to be recognizing the needs of women, by lowering the height of sport utility vehicles and adding automatic features, says Pam Scholder Ellen, an associate professor of marketing at Georgia State University in Atlanta.
"So now you have SUVs that
are big station wagons, but nobody wants to
be uncool enough to drive a station wagon,
so they drive their SUV," she says. "Women
were tired of having to worry about how much
they were exposing themselves when they tried
to get into their car in a skirt. It's not
as physically demanding now to manage their