Tag Archives: female friendly car dealers

How to encourage more women to join the Motor Industry

ack: The Society of the Irish Motor Industry’s conference for women (June 2017).
I have nothing but praise for first movers who spot an opportunity, take advantage of it quickly and follow through afterwards. The First Movers I’d particularly like to recognise here are Car Dealer Magazine, Autocar and the UK Automotive 30% Club.

The opportunity I’m talking about is the shortage of recognised female talent across the car, automotive and general motoring-related industries.

This opportunity is of equal interest to female friendly businesses that are already going that extra mile for women customers and those that recognise that being (seen as) a female friendly employer will likely improve staff retention and recruitment appeal.

When it comes to taking full advantage of either opportunity, that depends on the business strategy employed to follow this through.

The problem arises when first movers test the water here then get cold feet. This often happens to do with gender because some businesses think equality means treating men and women the same – which would be fair enough if men and women were the same. Which we aren’t of course as female perceptions of the motor industry (as customers and potential staff) confirm.

So, to address these areas, businesses need to decide their strategic recruitment plan and some are clearly doing this better than and ahead of others.

Car Dealer Magazine

Initially Car Dealer Magazine planned to get women in the industry together and see what’d happen – by organising an event at Car Dealer Expo 2015 that introduced different women and different careers to female attendees. Their first speakers included a rally driver, garage owner, Dealer Principal and finance specialist.

After these individual presentations a Q and A session revealed some dissatisfaction in female ranks. Why were scantily clad promotional girls on display at such events? Why were women a sideshow industry issue (the room was very small and away from the main stage) and why wasn’t this sort of presentation aimed at women outside the industry, not in it?

So I was interested to see if the Car Dealer Expo 2016 addressed these issues and by and large it did. Yes, the room was bigger, yes the MC was an impressive Miriam Gonzales Durantez (aka Mrs Nick Clegg) and yes Gaia Innovation MD Julia Muir brought local schoolgirls along to find out about automotive careers and yes there were many excellent issues raised again.

But the promotional girls were still there and the main company that uses them was both a sponsor of the event and a speaker in the Women In The Motor Industry session. I wrote about this at the time if you’d like to read more about this event.

This raises the interesting question of impartiality and independence in this area. Most of us run businesses not charities so we have to tread carefully and be seen to payback when accepting event sponsors that just might put the organiser at odds with key members of their audience.

Sadly I wasn’t able to attend the 2017 event due to an early diary clash so I missed the speed networking sessions with 100 local female students, sponsored by VW. But if you were there, by all means bring me up to date with your memories and thoughts about the day.

Autocar’s Great British Women in the Car Industry

Autocar’s Top 100 Great British Women Awards took a different tack, setting out to attract female engineers into car manufacturing roles by promoting a wide range of female careers and recognising high achievers in the car industry.

Their first event in 2016 was held at the SMMT offices where Linda Jackson (still the only UK/European female CEO of a car manufacturer) headed a fabulous band of female talent covering a wide range of job areas and functions.

Their Year Two event was considerably more impressive, held in plush conference facilities at Twickenham Stadium and free of charge to invitees, including lunch. Well attended, as you’d expect, local MP Sir Vince Cable delivered the opening address and Paul Geddes, CEO of Direct Line Insurance, delivered the Keynote speech.

There were two main panel debates tackling similar issues. The morning group was more attuned to the status quo I felt, but the afternoon panel was keen to see change or were already doing things differently and sharing best practice in many areas.

There was a definite focus on car manufacturers and franchised dealer groups at this event and little of interest for the independent sector.

Throughout the day I became more and more convinced that

1. Nobody knows the precise gender metrics in the automotive industry. For example how many employees are female in boardroom/senior management/middle management/car sales/aftersales/parts/engineering/design & IT roles in car manufacturers, top dealership groups, retail and other aftermarket roles. This means it’s going to be difficult to measure change until we do, or to calculate areas where the commercial need is greatest eg do we need more female engineers or more female car sales staff and so on…

2. There’s a weary school of female activists like me who want to shake up the male driven automotive industry by demanding a serious commitment (and action plan) towards diversity – one that takes effect NOW, not in 10+ years time.

3. By and large, long term female employees in the motor industry seem to think more like their male peers than other women drivers who don’t work in the motor industry.

4. Female returners to the industry, especially ones in HR functions, better understand what ‘typical mums and daughters’ think about the automotive industry and are more attuned to bridging this perception gap to recruit/retail the right female talent.

5. Some businesses are clearly working harder than others to be (seen as) female friendly from the point of view of their female customers, staff and future recruits. And this seems to be working.

6. Regardless of gender, most automotive staff seem to love cars and engines.

7. Where a potential female recruit is clearly more in tune with people and customer service than cars or has exceptional professional credentials but little love for engines or technology should she feel out of place? Perhaps she sees the industry as more about cars than people?

The UK Automotive 30% Club

So could the new UK Automotive 30% Club be an industry catalyst for change here? As mentioned at the Autocar 2016 event this started out with leading dealership groups stating an aim to have 30% of senior roles in their businesses held by women by 2030.

This is supported by the likes of the IMI, big dealer groups Vertu Motors, Lookers, Group 1 Automotive, TrustFord, Vantage Motor Group and manufacturers Toyota, Mazda, Kia and Bentley.

But is a 30% target in 13 years ambitious enough I wonder, when an aspirational target should surely be closer to 50:50? Perhaps this bar is too low to impress.

The Future

Now that such a good start has been made on so many different fronts, I wonder who will take this gender baton further to include all industry sectors I wonder?

Maybe The Society of the Irish Motor Industry is a good example (as the main image illustrates here) and possible ahead of the UK here. It held a recent conference which was attended by more than 140 women in the Irish motor industry, representing various sectors?

Certainly it’d be good to see Car Dealer Magazine adding to this by taking an active part identifying and promoting women in the motor industry within their Magazine. Maybe there’s an earning opportunity here for them to promote management job vacancies to women, within genuinely female friendly businesses?

Perhaps Autocar can make business sense of continuing a high profile Great British Women In The Car Industry annual awards ceremony funded by a wider range of sponsors and ticket sales? They might also develop this by looking at new ways to sell cars to influential women or identify car dealers which are the more female friendly ones, to drive more females to their publication.

And if The UK Automotive 30% Club would aim for a higher and more immediate target (than 30% of senior roles going to women by 2030) I feel sure that the first movers within their ranks could be encouraged to show the rest how to pick up their skirts and run to catch them up.

Sadly none of these organisations are the impartial and independent UK industry voice that’s surely needed to lead the gender equality business agenda forward for all. To do this would take a body tasked to

+ determine precisely where we are in terms of female staff numbers across the industry, by function and level

+ establish 50% as the equality target in boardrooms and senior management across the industry

+ obtain strategic buy in at boardroom level

+ manage a joined up strategic plan to move things forward

+ obtain annual statistics to measure/monitor gender levels

+ publish anonymised best practice benchmark statistics during early stages, to encourage progress.

Clearly an associated start has been made by the Government whereby UK companies with 250 or more employees, to include the big car dealer groups, are required to publish a gender pay gap report before April 2018. This should put the spotlight on associated gender employment areas.

Finally I don’t think we can get away with just considering female recruitment options for much longer. It’s time for action. The diversity job needs tackling now and the female business case is compelling for women as customers, existing employees and future recruits.

I’d welcome any constructive thoughts about who can afford to do this via my email info@foxyladydrivers.com or via my @FOXYSteph Twitter account.

Steph Savill

#QueenOf Motoring For Women, The Royal Connection, 2017

Steph Savill Consultancy Services

First to offer FOXY employee benefit scheme

Safe and Sound is the first employer to sign up to FOXY Lady Drivers Club’s employee benefit scheme, designed to help reduce staff stress levels to do with all aspects of their everyday motoring.

Every female member of staff has been given a free membership of the Club by Buckinghamshire-based WMS Group who owns Safe and Sound, and all male colleagues are encouraged to nominate a foxy lady to receive their staff benefit.

“FOXY is becoming the female voice of motoring in the UK because someone needs to speak up for our gender on occasion” says founder and MD Steph Savill. “For example, too many female motorists have found themselves ripped off, patronised or sold something they didn’t need, either in garages or car showrooms. I’m deeply encouraged to see Safe and Sound come on board with the FOXY ethos as well as supporting their female team members in such a caring way.”

What Women Want

Safe and Sound was developed in 2010 after WMS Group conducted extensive research into consumer behaviour which revealed that all buyers wanted reassurance that their car was road legal, safe to drive, didn’t have a hidden past and was being sold at a fair price.

It was also clear that many women had the final say on the car purchase and yet they were more likely than men to struggle to find a dealership they could trust not to sell them a dud.

So Safe and Sound has become a transparent programme which addresses these buyer concerns and promotes good businesses, much as FOXY is doing in its own way.

Staff benefit scheme

Our staff are delighted to have received their FOXY Lady Drivers Club membership,” says Steph Colinswood, Safe and Sound’s marketing manager “as many of them know little about cars.”

“Having access to the Club reassures them that they’re equipped with the knowledge and empowerment that comes with this level of motoring support. As a female-friendly employer we also believe lifetime Club membership for only £23 represents terrific value for money, especially as it doesn’t just cover the member but also her entire household.”

“By working with FOXY, we’re helping to spread their message and look forward to funding memberships for many more female employees in the future as WMS Group continues to expand. As a not-for-profit organisation, FOXY is unbiased and honest, and like us they’re passionate about the motor industry and making a stand for female equality. We’ll do all we can to help FOXY promote their fantastic business and are excited to be working with them.”

Coincidentally, last week WMS Group welcomed its first female account manager, responsible for seeking new dealerships to work with in this traditionally male-dominated industry.

To find your nearest Safe and Sound dealership, visit www.SafeandSound.co.uk.

If you are a business interested in joining the Safe and Sound network, see www.SafeandSound.co.uk/dealers.

To find out about FOXY Choice’s female friendly garage network, visit www.foxychoice.com

Same, same – dodgy used car dealers thrive

Dodgy used car dealers are thriving in tough economic times, often at the expense of innocent female motorists. Used car complaints are up by 18% in the first 6 months of 2010 and motorists are paying an average repair bill of £425 for faults that develop soon afterwards, says the Office of Fair Trading (OFT). The majority of complaints are always about independent dealers but in 2009 23% of complaints were about franchised dealerships so they will not be immune here.

Despite these statistics and a 9 month study, the OFT feels that the law is adequate to protect motorists as is. It has launched a campaign to tell motorists their rights instead. A sort of caveat emptor marketing communications campaign really.

And after decades of same same, the Retail Motor Industry Federation (RMIF) supports this action.

But hang on a minute, haven’t cowboy dealers been selling dangerous cars, making misleading claims about prices and warranties, doctoring service records, issuing MOT certificates regardless and employing aggressive sales tactics in this area pre 2010?

Probably as long as we’ve known about dodgy garage mechanics – about 60 years now.

So what has the industry done to make things better for motorists buying used cars? Nothing that has worked clearly, otherwise things would be better and they aren’t.

Sadly after a small and indignant response from motoring associations who are not best placed to weed out the cowboys, nothing much will happen again.

Whereas FOXY wants to know who these used car cowboys and dodgy garage mechanics are, so we can tell women drivers behind closed doors, via the Club. I think it’s time for a ‘blame and shame’ culture in the absence of industry regulation. So that the offending businesses can either clean up their act or get out of the industry (garages, independent dealers and franchised dealerships alike…).

Does it need to be more complicated?

An added complication, as I see it, occurs if a car in a dangerous state is involved in a fatal accident, the motorist having been sold it by a cowboy dealer or despatched with it after a dodgy mechanic service. I think the legal liability/responsibility lies with the motorist. Who may or may not be able to claim under their motor insurance as insurers tighten up their rules when a car is in a dangerous condition. This all seems unfair to me, from the motorist’s point of view. Surely it’s the offending business, its owner and even the ongoing weak industry standards that should be blamed here.

The Citizens Advice Bureau has recently contributed its experience and views; now we’d like to add ours. Rather than a campaign of consumer advice we’d prefer to see the onus and blame placed firmly on the trader so

  • No trader/dealer or auction site can sell ‘as seen’ vehicles and forego responsibility for their condition
  • All dealers/auction sites to carry out HPI and/or fully documented vehicle inspection visits/reports
  • All MOT certificates issued whilst the car is in the dealer’s possession to be mystery shopped for accuracy

We’d treat faking service histories in the same way as clocking a vehicle – both equally misleading practices designed to boost a selling price. And finally sentence serious and serial offenders to jail* and make sure their misdemeanours and names are well published locally.
*perhaps this happens already?

Only private cars would then be truly caveat emptor, giving the good car dealers the opportunity to be seen as the safer used car buying choice.

And whilst it is small fry compared to knowingly selling a potentially dangerous used car, I can report that Swiss Toni clones are alive and well, chatting up women whilst knowing very little about their cars or what women want.

Fortunately foxy ladies know to go to female friendly used car dealers where they’ll not get overcharged, patronised or sold services they don’t want or need.

Please help us spread the word to women. The dealership you choose to buy from is as important as the car you decide to buy.


Female friendly means business

I have just read a marketing article confirming that a female friendly business approach is likely to boost online marketing success, according to IPC Media research. Apparently 97 per cent of female web users research products online (presumably 3% don’t bother) while 74 per cent logged on every day in 2008, up from 71 per cent the previous year.

Some 92 per cent of those questioned said they had made a purchase using the internet.

Karin von Abrams, a senior analyst for eMarketer confirmed that three-quarters of female internet users are online every day, weekdays and weekends, stating that “a phenomenal proportion of women using the net are researching or buying products online, signalling a real revolution in retail.”

You’d be surprised if I was surprised by this as I have been banging my drum for quite some time now about garages and dealers needing to be more female friendly to sell new cars, servicing and repairs to more women drivers.  This is because many women motorists feel uncomfortable in garage and car showroom environments whereas if they feel welcome and learn to trust the business they’re likely to be back and perhaps they’d visit garages more often than they do to date…

But some garages may wish to ask typical female motorists what they think of their website because in my opinion many have been designed by men for men – plus ca change in our industry. A few photos with ordinary women (rather than bland models) and cars is a good place to start and it’s equally true of websites and in many business waiting areas.

A surprising number of garages have yet to invest in their own website, shifting from one expensive online advertiser to another without much likely sales effect.

Sadly many are too slow to pick up on email requests that could include valuable servicing and repair work. For example, today I received a most polite acknowledgement to my email from a garage telling me that their email was off-site but they would endeavour to be in touch with me within 7 days. No need to if it had been an urgent request because someone hungrier will have got there before them.

To find out about female friendly garages, MOTs, car servicing and repairs for women drivers.


“Computers are useless. They can only give you answers.”

Pablo Picasso