Tag Archives: UK retail motor industry

Not for profit makes business sense

For a long time I’ve wanted the Club to be a not for profit organisation and today the job has been done. We are finally putting ‘doing the right thing for women and the motor industry’ ahead of the alternative ‘sell as much as you can for as much as you can make’ strategy.

Which feels good to me. Let me explain…

FOXY Lady Drivers Club started out in 2005 when we charged £35 for a year’s membership including a Welcome Pack by post, a quarterly magazine and a telephone service. But we couldn’t make financial sense of the post and print overhead for the first couple of years so we opted to go completely online in 2007. Sadly we lost some of our supporters at that stage who weren’t and didn’t want to be internet savvy. I regret losing them but it was still the right decision to make, until a business grows to be big enough to attract the advertising it needs to support the magazine and so on.

It has always been a chicken and egg story – getting enough members and in the right area to support the garages and so on…

Having dispensed with the traditional postal and print services we were able to drop the annual subscription to £23; that included an online Membership Pack, bi-monthly email newsletters, offers and specialist services plus a £3 donation to the excellent Cancer Buddies Network charity.

Things changed again on 8 August 2008 (coinciding with the Beijing Olympics – an auspicious date apparently) when the Club’s sister business FOXY Choice opened for business. It’s now the UK’s only female friendly garage network but at the time it was a specialist marketing service for businesses that wanted to be promoted as female friendly or to know how they might do a better job. Qualifying independent garages, dealerships, bodyshops and fastfits all pay a modest annual subscription to get female friendly marketing materials, PR services and a lot of online promotion to women and members of the Club.

The plan was always that the retail motor industry SHOULD end up subsidising the Club because if the industry had been better at doing its job the Club wouldn’t have been needed in the first place; to reassure so many wary and ill at ease women when it comes to buying cars, garage services and insurance products.

With the benefit of hindsight, 2008 was probably the worst time to launch a new business into the motor trade in particular, with the first dip of a big two dipper recession to follow. So it has taken us longer to get to where we wanted to be – that the Club’s subscription would get cheaper so it could help more women…

Once we saw that the UK was in for a long and depressing economic slog, and that women were by and large bearing the brunt of the hardship in terms of job losses and ever rising shopping bills we decided to bite the bullet and make Club membership a lifetime subscription. One joining fee of £23 and women drivers across the UK can have a motoring friend for life – was there ever a better motoring deal I wonder?

Finally today we completed the legalities to make the Club a not for profit company that’s limited by guarantee. Thank you Taylor & Emmet LLP for your patient advice here. This means no shares, no shareholders and no staff salaries with any year end surplus going to the Cancer Buddies Network charity when we get there. The online subscription remains a lifetime one at £23 and our FOXY Choice garage partners even have an allocation of gift subscriptions for free.

If you live near one of them, just pop in and ask them if you can have one.

In this way we hope that more women drivers across the UK will join the Club to enjoy better motoring services in future. We don’t think women should have to take a man with them to pay a fair price for a car in a dealership (hence our car buying service). We are confident that women won’t be patronised in FOXY garages (or they’re in serious trouble) and we’ll do all we can to identify the car insurers that try to milk us because of our gender, not our risk, come the EU Gender Equality ruling and unfair car insurance premium rises set to hit females badly this December.

In short, we’re sticking up for women drivers because someone needs to and promoting best practice in the motor industry wherever we find it. And we’re able to do this thanks to the financial support we receive from FOXY Choice subscribers, website advertisers and a few trade sponsors.

Please help us spread the word about FOXY so we can do a better job for more women.


Why women ignore retail motor industry careers

Thousands of female university students are ignoring careers in the automotive industry according to a recent Autocar survey.

A tiny 3.5% of female university students interviewed would consider a career in the automotive industry although an encouraging 35% said they might do, possibly in an attempt to please their interviewer…

However that still leaves nearly 2 out of 3 females who aren’t interested in a career in the UK automotive industry compared to the majority of male university students who are (61%).

I am not surprised. The main reason why there are so few women in the UK retail motor industry is to do with its perceived image in female minds.

Whilst much has been done by the IMI in particular to encourage women into engineering roles and to train them to move up the ladder, little has been done to address the overly blokey attitude of the 80%+ male workers in this industry. This blinkered and often offensive attitude, that we all know exists, needs to change in line with female needs and expectations of a modern business today.

Why would any woman want to fight her way through an industry that can be so offensive (if you listen) and with such a poor record of females reaching senior management or Board positions.

If this image is to change, the UK motor industry needs businesses with more females at Board and senior management levels. Of course the women that have made it to the top already are very special and have proved it can be done but to get there they have had to be resilient and focused to cope (and turn a blind eye) with the testosterone and patronising behaviour so typical of this industry. Not all females can be that bothered…

And it should be said that this image is unfair and damaging to the many genuinely female friendly businesses we know exist…

The sadness is that few men recognise this image and successful females forget that few females are as focused or as fortunate as them.  In my experience the industry seems to think it is non-PC to favour females and seems to prefer to educate the customer in her dealings with the industry rather than the other way round.

I see it differently. Looking at garages and dealerships for starters, the industry is dysfunctional as it exists with such a male bias; we all kid ourselves if we think women (the gender spenders after all) want to be treated like men.

So something must be done to bring our motor industry up to date and to restore a more healthy female:male gender balance. The business case is clear –  women want and expect more than men from automotive employers and the retail motor industry businesses we deal with. Trying to understand us would be a good idea…

I suggest we

  • put more oomph into the IMI’s Automotive Careers Champion network with a dedicated marketing campaign for young women that doesn’t make it seem as if we should be technically-literate
  • investigate new channels to explain to young females how exciting a motor industry career in marketing, sales and personnel can be
  • encourage more female NEDs from outside the industry; tasked to make individual businesses (manufacturers, dealer groups, trade associations and individual businesses) more female friendly from the top down
  • encourage businesses to recruit and invest in more (of the right) female staff ie let’s have less of the ‘experience needed’ self perpetuating gender adverts when the likes of a simple systems training course would have the right female up to speed in little time and a fresh insight as a bonus

In short there is a need to train employers in the motor industry how to be MORE FEMALE FRIENDLY businesses and employers.

Let’s see how the two female judges in the 2011 Autocar-Courland Next Generation Award go about encouraging female automotive talent this year. As the pre-launch survey confirms women lack confidence in their dealings with the motor industry and need mentoring and encouragement. Otherwise they go to employers and into industries where they clearly feel more at home.

Which is totally understandable but a great loss of potential talent for our industry in many instances.


Why choose a female friendly garage?

Q: Why should women choose a FOXY Choice approved female friendly garage?
A: Because they are better than the rest.

The UK retail motor industry is surely one of the last male bastions employing c90% men and only 10% women. Whilst most other industries have identified the power of the female purse, this industry continues to be slow to recognise that the gender spenders, women, are not men in skirts; in a misguided attempt to treat both genders as equal.

This is despite women influencing some 80% of all household purchases including buying new cars and garage services like MOT’s, car servicing and repairs. And despite women being wealthy yet wary shoppers in workshop and showroom environments, which we correctly describe as ‘too blokey.’

What a business opportunity for those that get female service levels right, ahead of others.

We’ve all heard stories about frighteningly shoddy garage workmanship, offensive predatory Swiss Toni tactics and a shocking tendency to overcharge us because we are women and don’t (always) do mechanical jargon and such like. Like many men too of course.

And those motorists who are in the know, know that UK garages aren’t licensed and mechanics don’t have to be qualified to repair our cars. Imagine allowing an unqualified electrician or gas fitter loose in your home? But we often do on our cars…

Then there’s the huge divide between the competence of garage businesses based on the equipment they use, their ethics and the prices they charge.

Which is where FOXY Choice steps in – a shameless plug but OK because what we do is unique and someone who sees it from the point of view of the motorist has to do it!

FOXY Choice expects all approved garages to sign the female friendly FOXY Promise to ‘never overcharge, patronise or sell women services they don’t need.’ We give them marketing materials and a whole lot more to promote themselves to women and encourage that marketing gift – word of mouth. We also encourage their female customers to tell us what they think so we are forever monitoring our subscribers and  their customer service  standards.

Over and above this we are the only independent consumer organisation to explain and identify quality signs women drivers can trust such as ATA (Automotive Technician Accreditation), BSI Kitemark and OFT code approved schemes. In FOXY’s opinion these are measurable ways that all motorists can steer clear of garage cowboys where women drivers are likely to be ripped off.

We’re also the only organisation to steer a clear course between the independent vs franchised dealership choice. Unlike trade bodies funded by manufacturers (who will sell women franchised dealer garages) or ones representing independent garages, we give you the information so you can make your choice.

If you want franchised dealership expertise (they have to train their mechanics to manufacturer standards and are likely to do this to ATA standards too, to repair all makes of cars) or like their customer services and facilities then that may well be worth paying a bit more. On the other hand, you are likely to save money if you pick a good independent where their overheads are less resulting in lower hourly rates. In short, the choice must be the motorists alone but in both categories be dragons because complaint stats consistently confirm that a similar percentage of good and bad garages whether they are dealerships and/or independents….

So the FOXY Choice UK garage network helps you shop around and tells you which garages (fastfits, independents and franchised dealerships) have signed the female friendly FOXY Promise and their evidence of measurable quality including awards.

And which ones employ women in customer facing roles (because women trust women).

And which ones have been recommended by women.

So all women can make an informed and female friendly choice in a male dominated industry that thinks equality for women means treating us like men. Big mistake guys.

We’re looking for the best.


New in 2011 – Female friendly garage feedback invited here.
New in 2010 – See which FOXY Choice garages employ women in customer facing roles.

Honda Alice is a welcome difference

Alice and her father Paul Brayley

Brayley Honda car dealership in Hemel Hempstead clearly values the female purse and is doing something about this with a workforce comprising 30% who are women.

Now you might think (like me) that a ratio of 70:30 is still overly male skewed when c80% of all household purchases are made by women but this is the retail motor industry where, according to the Equal Opportunities Commission, women account for less than 10% of the UK workforce. That’s a shocking statistic with so many customer facing roles ideal for  women like Alice, in the photo.

23-year-old Alice Brayley has turned her back on a career in teaching to join her father’s franchised dealership Honda Brayley in Hemel Hempstead. Despite a degree in sociology she chose to join the motor trade following in father’s footsteps. Starting as a sales administrator Alice hopes to move into a management role soon, given the opportunity, once she completes the manufacturer’s management development programme at the Honda Institute in Slough.

The reasons that many women don’t rush to get jobs in the retail motor industry like Alice or to do business with the motor industry as customers aren’t at all complicated. When it comes to buying cars and garage services too many of us are wary shoppers, intimidated by the ‘too blokey’ atmosphere in workshops and showrooms. So imagine what it’s like for young female staff who don’t have Alice’s family business advantages…

As customers, many females worry about being overcharged, patronised and sold things we don’t need. So much so we often feel distinctly ill at ease, take a man with us for support and would prefer to go almost anywhere else. And so we do.

Yet the business case for being a female friendly garage or showroom in her mind is all to do with competitive advantage and word of mouth. Get it right for women and we’ll come more often and tell our friends. This is even more important for businesses selling fleet cars, apparently, where according to the latest RAC Report on Motoring, eight out of ten company cars are chosen by a female. Surely female staff like Alice are better placed than many men to understand what women want and to appreciate why we should get it?

Oh that more manufacturers, dealership and garage groups would recognise the need to achieve a 50:50 gender balance at the very top of their business. The problem is that too few talented females are determined to fight their way to the top in an industry when there are more female friendly industries for us to enjoy and succeed in.

What is needed in virtually all cases is an industry commitment first and foremost and then an individual Board willingness to make the retail motor industry a genuinely more female friendly one. Starting with female Directors including NEDs bringing functional expertise rather than motor industry thinking which is often inclined towards the status quo. And then to make the same progress at senior and then junior management levels.

Until a genuinely female friendly company culture can be seen and felt throughout the retail motor industry, there seems little point encouraging and feeding new female talent in through the front door when they then come up against the same old male dominated status quo and first floor ceiling…


Find out which garages and dealerships are marketing to women by subscribing to FOXY Choice‘s female friendly garage marketing services near you.