Earlier this year Frost & Sullivan research confirmed that women drivers will soon outnumber men on UK roads as they have done in the USA. It’s a simple case of demographics and the fact that younger women expect to drive cars for the rest of their lives, compared to older pre Baby Boomer females who were rarely expected to drive or never got round to it.
Their new research tells us what women are looking for from our cars and how different manufacturers are addressing this gender opportunity.
Apparently women want intuitive vehicle controls, automatic assist features, integrated technology and a quiet, comfortable and plush cabin.
In response, the 2014 Mercedes S Class features a host of female-oriented options including a perfume atomiser, an ionising air system and an absence of plastic. The new Porsche Macan – aimed at women – has almost endless options for personalisation.
Ford’s automatic boot opener and its advert portraying a woman using her stiletto to activate this was such a success it resulted in high sales of the Ford Kuga and apparently BMW then copied the feature and the advert (which I clearly missed…).
Female friendly car dealerships
But now the gender battleground is shifting to car dealerships. Nissan has come out as the first car company that plans to revamp 300 of their dealerships in Japan, tailoring them to women.
Called the “Ladies First” project, Nissan has opened a pilot in the Tokyo suburb of Fuchu. Managed by women and manned by women, it aims to make the car shopping experience much more female friendly.
These dealerships will be modern, serene and with a team of female concierges providing child care during appointments. Female mechanics will avoid unnecessary techno-speak and Nissan wants to see a minimum of 50 percent of sales and retail teams across the globe to be women.
Their research confirms that 80 percent of women going to a car dealer want to have a woman sales person. As the saying goes (more in Japan than the UK I think), “Happy wife, happy life…”
Those of you familiar with the FOXY formula will know of our FOXY Lady Approved female friendly garage and car dealer network doing a similar job but monitoring dealership performance as an independent brand.
Whereas efforts towards this sort of workforce diversity will take many years to come to fruition, Ghosn has established a system called “fJury” (female jury), where a panel of women provide feedback and approve every stage of any new vehicle design process.
From Germanic macho to mumsy…
At long last BMW has been forced to look at their largely successful “ultimate driving machine” marketing slogan. They realised it worked with mostly male piston heads, but something far more sophisticated was needed to capture a new female consumer. So the “Joy” campaign was born??? Going from taglines such as “Fasterpiece” to “Joy is Maternal” is supposed to bring a different feel to the brand.
As a 5’3” female driving a BMW that was clearly designed for a taller man (and who is unlikely to buy another one) I think they need to build cars for females first, not just give their campaigns frilly monnikers.
Female staff in the motor industry
Major auto makers are now putting women at the head of vehicle design and roll out in these key future markets. For example, Lamborghini’s trim and colour assembly team is 75 percent female, and BMW has an all-female team of engineers working on product development for the BMWi user interface.
For the auto industry the female consumer has thrown the innovation race wide open and there are many yet to come to the party. The question is will manufacturers develop and launch vehicles specifically designed for women, or will they customize cars for both sexes.
The female business case should make that an easy answer.
This blog came out of an interesting article published by Forbes and written by Olivia Price Walker, Senior Consultant and author of Frost & Sullivan’s “Women in Cars; Changing Auto Industry Dynamics.” http://www.forbes.com/sites/sarwantsingh/2014/08/28/will-cars-of-the-future-be-designed-for-women-only/