Web services, automakers help women get more recognition in dealerships
Sites like Ask Patty seek to make women more comfortable when buying or servicing a car.
Representing half of all new car buyers and wielding increasing
economic clout, women are commanding more respect from automakers, car
dealers and their service departments – but experts say there’s plenty
room for improvement. And seminar services, Web sites and magazines are
sprouting up to help women demand it, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer.
“We do not feel respected,” by the male-dominated industry, said Jody DeVere, president of AskPatty.com, a Web site about cars, geared toward women.
The site says it offers “a safe place for women to get advice on car purchases, maintenance and other automotive related topics,” through interactive e-mail, blogs and “Womanars,” Web-based seminars delivered by female automotive experts.
Ms. DeVere said she is confronted all the time with the question “why do women need a special Web site, special marketing, etc. – cars are cars, right?”
Sales tip: Try non-confrontational selling
Women spend more time on the Internet researching cars – preferring to avoid the high-pressure, confrontational experience of a dealership until they’re armed with information, said Courtney Caldwell, publisher of Road & Travel Magazine.
“Women and men want the same things from a car, but they prioritize them differently,” said Ms. Cald-well, whose online magazine content is oriented toward female readers.
For women, a vehicle’s safety is the top priority. For men, performance and styling are high-priority with safety an afterthought.
One of the top drivers of traffic to the female-oriented sites is discomfort with dealers – inappropriate sexual comments, a “bring your husband back when you’re ready to buy” attitude, and the suspicion of being ripped off, get mentioned often.
Everyone, including dealers, say that’s bad business.
Women drive CSI scores
According to some estimates, women fill out 85 percent of the “customer satisfaction index” forms that consumers return after a car purchase or repair.
“They are more likely to complete those forms, because they tend to be less confrontational,” Ms. DeVere said.
“In general it’s a male-based industry,” said Karen Riveros, a regional service manager for Volkswagen of America Inc., whose job it is to make sure local dealers are keeping customers happy.
Part of that, she and others said, will come from having more women auto executives, engineers, designers, mechanics, service managers and dealership owners.
Progress has been slow but steady – Ms. Riveros for instance, is one of a handful of females in her position nationwide, out of about 50.
Ms. Caldwell recalled that when she approached advertisers in 1989 with the idea of a car and travel magazine for women, “There was a lot of laughing at me.”
Today the magazine, which several years ago went to an online-only format, is flush with ads and expects to log 10 million page views this year.
Volvo took the unusual but well-received step of handing over the drafting of its “Your Concept Car” to an all-female design team, unveiling it in 2004. The non-production car included fingernail-friendly capless fuel and washer fluid doors, swappable interior fabrics, and gullwing doors for easier entry and exit.
Kevin Mazzucola, executive director of the Automobile Dealers Association of Greater Philadelphia said that today’s dealers know that “the days of ‘look at that vanity mirror’ are long gone,” when it comes to marketing cars to women.
While the dealer’s group hasn’t launched any specific outreach efforts toward women, he said the group has designed its advertising buying to lure female attendees to the association-produced Philadelphia Auto Show.