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Bankrate's 2007 New Car Guide
For women mostly
Women have become major players in the auto world and they're getting more respect.
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For women mostly
Carmakers rev up appeals to women buyers
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Of course, the changes could appeal to men as well.

Dodge Caliber
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Cup holders abound. The Dodge Caliber crossover has a cooled glove compartment -- called the Chill Zone -- to store everything from sodas to baby bottles, says Caldwell.

Automatic door openers in vehicles like the Toyota Sienna help when you're trying to hold a child and your groceries at the same time. When loading passengers the seats will move "at the touch of the finger instead of physically having to force these seats down," she says. In-floor storage compartments in vehicles like the Honda Odyssey provide space to keep drinks when taking kids to soccer practice.

Honda Odyssey
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"You're simply finding a more usable vehicle in a smaller space that's more in tune with the physical demands and the multitasking needs of many women," Ellen says.

Other features that GM designers are looking at are sunshades. Windham says the Malibu, for example, has incorporated a retractable rear sunshade.

As seen on TV
To sell women on the attributes created with them in mind, carmakers are spending air time to show how their vehicles can fit into their lifestyles. That's whether it's a female in the busy mom role -- such as shopping for the household and carting kids around town -- or a woman pursuing her own interests.

A recent ad for Lincoln's MKX shows a woman arriving at the beach in a wet suit and heading to the back of the car, where she meets her three daughters with their surfboards. That shows that the car is a family vehicle, great for women and great for active lifestyles, Caldwell says.

Ellen believes commercials like that show how automakers are helping women see their car possibly as an escape from busy lives. "Women do have more varied lives than the traditional view of a soccer mom," she says.

Some have failed, though. Remember that Cadillac Catera commercial during the 1997 Super Bowl that featured Cindy Crawford in a leather miniskirt? That was supposed to sell the lower priced Caddy to women, Caldwell says, but it was pulled off the air after complaints from females that it was sexist. In the 1950s, Chrysler launched an unsuccessful marketing campaign with a pink car, pink lipstick and matching umbrella.

Ellen says choices like that emphasize that not all women like the same things.

"To me, it's a lot like assuming that every paper towel ought to have ducks and geese and country-type things, as though there's a universally appealing design," she says.

One challenge for auto manufacturers is appealing to women who are trying to balance a desire to be environmentally conscious with driving a car big enough to accommodate their families.

"You have people who will literally make comments about your audacity to drive this big vehicle in a time of crisis for our environment," Ellen says. She adds that cars such as the Toyota Prius, however, aren't practical for women with children because of their small size.

Now, if only car manufacturers can create a vehicle that vacuums itself and keeps the kids from fighting.

-- Posted: Aug. 2, 2007
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