Women, who influence up to 85 percent of car-buying decisions, bring a gender-specific shopping list to the auto showroom. But because fewer than one in 10 dealership workers is a woman, they often feel stranded on Mars, with a wish list from Venus.
"It's just a perception because auto dealerships are still a male-dominated industry," said Angelo Chavez, director of sales for Burt Automotive.
Burt is among a few local showrooms trying to tone down the testosterone with the help of a year-old Web site, AskPatty.com.
Patty is a fictional character - she could be your mom, daughter, wife, niece, grandmother or auntie, the site explains - who provides free advice and information about car sales and service to women. Readers also can find blogs, "womanars" and posts on subjects such as fluids in car maintenance or how to sell your car.
A network of 50 expert women, including NASCAR driver Deborah Renshaw, volunteer to answer readers' questions privately.
"They volunteer because they are passionate about helping women," said Judy DeVere, president of the Sarasota, Fla.-based site. Plus, she said, readers trust that "woman to woman, we are not trying to rip them off."
The site follows in the footsteps of BeJane.com, a female-oriented advice site on home maintenance, and Angie's List, a rating system for home contractors.
And because it accepts no advertising, AskPatty is rolling out a dealer-certification program. Certification deems the showroom "female-friendly."
About 200 dealerships nationwide are certified or are in the process of becoming so. Among them: 11 Burt Automotive and Ralph Schomp dealerships in metro Denver and Daniels Chevrolet in Colorado Springs.
Certification is sold on a 12-month contract and costs $795 a month. It involves front-line personnel reading a 220-page book on selling cars to women and taking a 91-question online test. In return, dealerships get a link on the AskPatty Web site.
That link could be a virtual gold mine. The majority of car buyers browse online before or after visiting a dealership, said Tim Jackson, president of the Colorado Automobile Dealers Association.
"Certainly, every successful dealership not only has an Internet strategy but is always improving and expanding it," Jackson said.
Elizabeth Daniels, who owns Daniels Chevrolet, not only volunteers as one of AskPatty's experts but got her sales floor personnel "female-friendly" certified.
Years ago, in an effort to market to women, she added a fitness center and children's play area to her waiting room.
"Women have been a powerful part of the buying process for a bazillion years," she said. "But the world is now just catching on."