Female car ownership has soared by 20 per cent in the last decade says the SMMT (Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders). There are now 11.8 million female car owners out of some 17 million women drivers and a total car population of 34.7 million on UK roads today
Having had a decade and more to get used to wealthy, independent and fussy females, you’d think the motor industry’d have had time to adjust service levels to cater for us, especially when our basic needs are fairly simple.
We want to be treated with respect, valued not patronised and not overcharged because of our sex. Over and above this, if dealers, garages and manufacturers want to talk to us specifically, they’ll need to do better than advertising in motoring magazines, sections of newspapers or blokey websites we don’t visit.
That’s because, in survey after survey, year in year out, women drivers confirm they aren’t impressed with motoring services. So let’s look at what can be done to satisfy the gender that is influencing and buying the majority of car and garage services in the UK.
Treat Us With Respect
Surely treating customers with respect is easy? We expect easy parking, something for children perhaps, clean loos and waiting facilities.
But when it comes to staff, why do so many women still feel the need to take a man with them when buying a new car? Or why do we delegate garage visits to men? In equal times, shouldn’t women feel as able to negotiate a good car buying deal or as comfortable navigating a garage visit as men?
The female behavioural response seems to suggest there’s more to be done here. Perhaps this has to do with ‘negotiating a deal’. How do we know if the deal that’s put to us is the best on offer? Or whether the car deal is good but we’re paying over the odds for a finance deal or for added extras…
With every business challenge comes opportunity of course and I’d expect the best businesses to be getting this right for women. But how do women know who they are?
Is the answer buying cars or garage services online? In some cases yes, but this isn’t building a long term relationship – it’s just a short term sales channel and when everyone is doing the same, the same bad behaviour will creep in here too.
Are Women Being Patronised?
Perceptions are as powerful as facts. If women think they’re being patronised in garages, tyre centres and car showrooms, then they are.
But perhaps caring businesses are genuinely trying to advise and protect us, as they might their mums or daughters?
Why is it that some women think they’re being sold tyres they don’t need when they’re told that their tyres are nearly (but not quite) illegal? Chances are they don’t know the subject (few motorists do), don’t realise the safety implications of nearly legal tyres being nearly worn out (few motorists do) and don’t trust the advice given because of the industry image.
She then goes home and asks a male friend or partner when this can quickly escalate into a ‘I was patronised’ scenario where she imagines her tyre buying advice wouldn’t have been given to a man.
Some women object to the familiarity of regional terms like ‘love’ and ‘duck’ which staff might use with women customers but not necessarily with men. I don’t feel strongly about being called ‘hinny’ in my Geordie hinterland but if some female customers are offended, it surely makes business sense to lose the over familiarity?
Why is it that the typically male car sales person still finds it easier to talk over her head to the man she’s with, even when he knows she’s footing the bill, using matey-chatter which passes her by? Inexplicable in my book.
Are Women Being Overcharged?
If women think they’re being overcharged then, right or wrong, that’s what they believe.
The media certainly propagates the image that women are being overcharged. Too many businesses profit from this, such as car and garage comparison websites that use online content to state that women were overcharged or women weren’t overcharged in their research. There solution is to encourage motorists to buy the cheapest motoring services (from them) in sectors of our unregulated car buying, service and repair industry. Thus fuelling the ‘my goodness I’ve been ripped off because I’m a woman’ mindset.
Sadly, I can confirm that some garages and car dealerships definitely DO lure and overcharge women who don’t know better. I know of widows driving a few thousand miles a year being sold an overly expensive car service and new tyres every year. And big name schemes allowing ‘approved’ car businesses to skip used car check standards. Even selling ‘essential’ services to repair features their car doesn’t have. That’s a tricky one to defend.
What’s To Be Done For Women?
Were I in charge, I’d regulate ALL motoring services in the same way as MOTs are and insist on licensed staff in ALL sectors. At present there is universal detriment in many sectors of the motor industry allowing cowboys, unsafe used cars, second rate garages and car dealers, part worn tyres, counterfeit car parts and poorly prepared staff and motorists. All affecting car safety of course…
Yes it’s tricky to get some (female and male) motorists to engage with the likes of garages and car dealers, possibly because of this industry’s reputation and silo mentality. But this also needs tackling because ignorance of safety issues can result in accidents and is no excuse in law.
As things stand, it’s too easy for women to delegate motoring responsibilities to men who may or may not know any more about the subject than them. Not realising that if their car causes an accident, they not their delegate, are responsible for the consequences.
Key to female perceptions of this industry’s reputation is for them to see more women working in it to alter these perceptions, from Boardroom level to workshop and showroom floors. And for these women to be prepared to stand up for ordinary female motorists (like their mum perhaps) and to explain to their male peers that few women customers are the same as male customers, or expect to be treated like them.
Sadly there’s too little staff training across the industry to address this. It needs to start at the top of each business of course which is where the men retain their dominance. So it’s the men at the top that are failing to marry their staff profile with that of their changing and increasingly influental female customer base.
I hope the Gender Pay Gap reporting tightens this up so we can see the businesses that are actively addressing this gap as a matter of best practice, not just reluctantly keeping up in the back.
- Motoring organisations and groups that want to talk to Steph Savill about marketing to women can do so by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Women wanting to enjoy motoring services that are FOXY Lady Approved can join the Club here.
- Garages and dealers that want to be FOXYLadyApproved, can sign up here