Happy 10th birthday FOXY

Happy 10th birthday FOXY

In December 2004 our motoring club for women, FOXY Lady Drivers Club, opened for business. The catalyst had been my step-daughter having a bad garage experience and being sent away with a dangerous car.

My personal experience of the motor industry at that stage included servicing trips to a dealership in West Sussex with my company car. I worked in the gender balanced travel industry at the time and had no idea that things would feel SO different in the macho motor industry.

Looking back, I had been critical of impersonal service levels in my motoring dealings but I just put that down to uncaring/incompetent staff at the time, never thinking about this as a gender issue or the safety ramifications for that matter.

But as soon as I found out that UK garages aren’t regulated, that mechanics don’t have to be licensed, that my local Trading Standards wouldn’t tell me who the ‘good garages’ were for ‘legal reasons’ and that poorly maintained cars could be dangerous, I knew I could do better so motoring Mums like me, and their daughters, weren’t risking their personal road safety unwittingly.

What’s in the name?

Calling us FOXY Lady was probably a risk and in the early days online searches took many interested women into disturbingly dark and deterring areas on the internet. Which would probably have been the same for Virgin had Richard Branson launched his business at the same time…

Happily my talented sister-in-law Claire was able to bring the name to life (our frilly fox is called Felicity by the way) in an original watercolour painting which formed the basis of our original FOXY logo.

It may be a Marmite moment for many but it was always the right choice for me. To begin with, FOXY is a female brand meaning ‘shrewd and canny’ because I believe women need to be this when dealing with the motor industry. It then gives me the attitude and attention I need to express some forthright views about the motor industry…

For example, I support garage regulation, licensed mechanics and the need for more women in the motor industry. I am still livid that the EU were able to impose the Gender Directive and higher insurance premiums on young women drivers under smoke and mirrors cover. I also know that we are often the target for rip off practices in garages and car showrooms and am keen to see more transparency re car sales prices.

I also despair that far too many busy women remain as ignorant as I was in the 90s about motoring safety issues such as tyres and car maintenance thinking this is someone else’s responsibility… But what if their car neglect causes an accident or serious injuries? What if better tyres could have stopped in time but lesser/cheaper ones didn’t?

STEP ONE – to improve the motoring experience for women.

Getting back to the business plot, key to my plan was the fact that women drivers were clearly in the ascendency (and will soon outnumber their male counterparts on UK roads in c2-3 years). I sensed that the overly masculine motor industry would need to ‘up’ its game to get things right for an influential and independent-minded female audience. And this is happening of course…

I also saw the opportunity to help women identify the best motoring buys (and guys!), encouraging them to buy wisely, rather than by price, because of the safety risks that come with ‘cheap.’

To find out more about our services, just visit the FOXY Lady Drivers Club website.

STEP TWO – to find out who and where the best motoring services are.

Having set up the club I quickly realised I needed to get savvy (as in foxy!) about standards in the motor industry or run the risk of recommending businesses claiming to be female friendly but without any supporting evidence to back this up.

So I set out to identify measurably better and female friendly garages, accident repairers and car dealers based on minimum standards relating to quality, ethics, value for money, cleanliness and customer service. Knowing that so many women worry about being ripped off in garages and car showrooms, every motoring business we work with also has to sign a promise to ‘never overcharge, patronise or sell women services they don’t need’.

That doesn’t make them perfect of course, so to monitor performance levels further, we now visit these businesses biennially and require sight of added customer feedback to justify a network place based on genuine merit.

If you’d like to know more, I’m talking about the Club’s sister website called FOXY Choice where we identify, approve, promote and monitor female friendly garages, accident repairers and car dealers.

STEP THREE – let’s be having more women…

And surprise, surprise, from these business visits has come a third objective for FOXY. To see more women in the motor industry, in customer facing sales roles of course, but also to actively encourage the best female managers and directors in other business areas to consider a sideways move into an automotive career.

Because the automotive industry needs them there…

Thanks for the memories FOXY

There have been lots of good times of course.

The rewarding ones were when businesses admitted to failings and refunded large amounts of money to Club members as a result of our intervention, having accepted and learned from their mistakes (and knowing we were poised to spill the beans locally if they didn’t)…

And the day we made the Club a not for profit set up (no salaries or dividends & any surplus invested in the Club), just funded by the garages and dealers we approve as female friendly and promote to women drivers within and without the Club. Somehow this seems the right thing to do because if the industry was as female friendly as it should be by rights, FOXY wouldn’t be needed…

I also remember the time we were travelling on the M1 in FOXY’s early days when Jeremy Vine announced the launch of yet another industry self-regulated garage scheme. I phoned in to contribute my penn’orth and was introduced to Jeremy as Steph from the Sexy Lady Drivers Club. Well at least I could laugh, relax and have fun announcing our real name to his huge audience of followers.

And the scary time spent testing tyres in Germany driving a Porsche Panamera flat out (for me) around a racing track to be told ‘you must drive faster, faster…’

And the weekend test-driving the Citroen C4 Cactus in Amsterdam alongside much more experienced motoring bloggers/journalists who probably didn’t realise that it was the first time I’d EVER driven a lefthand drive car with passengers and in one of Europe’s busiest cities…

steph wearing those trousers

Another memory I shall recall with personal pride is a recent one. We’re waiting for the next Mary Portas Secret Shopper TV series to be aired because FOXY was involved in the episode concerning a used car dealer.

Whilst trying to look elegant but keep warm on a cold November day walking around a used car forecourt, imagine my surprise when THE Mary Portas said to me ‘I like your trousers, where did you get them from?’ Not known for my sartorial elegance that will surely become a dinner party conversation stopper for me in future!

Where FOXY is heading now…

As I see it, it is only when the motor industry achieves a 50:50 distribution of roles between men and women, starting at the very top, will the UK’s motoring businesses ‘get’ the female business case.

And I suspect that this will only happen when women rule UK roads and demand motoring services that meet the female friendly customer service standards we enjoy elsewhere on the High Street!

Bring it on I say, leaving many of the old school status quo garages and car showrooms behind, wondering what happened…

And until then we’ll continue to stick up for women drivers and to represent their best interests in all FOXY does.

To join the Club

Club membership is a great present for someone special and our gift membership pack includes a FOXY folder, membership card, car sticker and so on… And if you’re that special person be sure to drop hints well in advance so we can gift wrap it and so on…

You can buy this online from www.foxyladydrivers.com or by phoning 01903 879988 with your credit card if preferred.

More News

FOXY Car Reviews
FOXY Information
FOXY Top Tips
Women in the Motor Industry
FOXY Blog Archive


Vuelio - Top 10 UK Automotive Blogs
Don't ignore your tyres - check them once a month