Dec 30, 2006
DETROIT Women decide or in some way influence most of the car and truck purchases in the United States - more than 80 percent, according to some estimates.
But talk to women about their auto-buying experience in showrooms, and you'll find that many aren't thrilled.
Salespeople who ignore the woman when a man and woman are looking for a car came up last month when Times-Dispatch readers voiced their customer-service pet peeves.
So what's a male-dominated industry like the car business to do?
Enter AskPatty.com, started by a couple of entrepreneurs who thought they could make money straightening out the problem.
Data from J.D. Power and Associates show that the situation isn't as bad as some anecdotes suggest. Men pay a little more for their new vehicles than women, and women are a little less satisfied than men with the maintenance and repair process at dealerships.
Many dealerships already have installed child-friendly areas, with toys and child videos, and dealerships report doing their best to attract female salespeople and to treat all customers with respect.
But AskPatty.com, a New York-based Web site, aims to go a step further and help improve the communication between female customers and auto sellers.
The site educates women about all things automotive, with female experts who write articles and answer questions on repair, maintenance and car buying.
Forty-nine percent of the nation's dealerships have no saleswomen, according to a 2006 survey by the National Auto Dealers Association. The number of women selling cars and trucks in showrooms declined this year to about 8 percent of the 231,400 auto salespeople nationwide.
AskPatty.com certifies dealerships as female-friendly after they have passed a course on how to communicate with women. A check of the Web site found no dealerships in the Richmond area that are certified.
To be certified, members of a dealership's sales team must read a book on how to communicate with women, "How to Get Rich Selling Cars and Trucks to Women," and take a training course. Then they must pass a 134-question test, which takes about an hour to complete.
"We're teaching them how to attract, sell and increase loyalty with women," said Jody DeVere, AskPatty president.
The Web site gets about 20,000 visitors each month. About 50 dealerships have signed on for certification services. Dealerships pay $225 per person for 12 months of training and $795 a month for the dealership certification.
The dealerships get a link on the AskPatty.com site that will direct visitors to a female-friendly dealership in their area. The Web site also provides the dealerships with a co-branded marketing and advertising program.
- Detroit Free Press, Times-Dispatch staff