Cars Designed for Women: Ridiculous!

You're probably reading this wondering why I'm torturing you with a picture of a pink 500 with crystals on it, right? Well it all started the other day, when I was watching an episode of Mad Men, not (just) because I find Christina Hendricks and January Jones to be insanely hot, but because one of my TV sets was broken so I had to share. Anyway, this show is all about on of New York’s most prestigious advertisement agencies at the beginning of the 1960s, and it’s a very interesting insight into gender equality and liberal use of cigarettes in every shot.
In this episode, the advertising specialists, who were all men, were discussing an ad for the Volkswagen Beetle which was then being introduced in the United States. In the age of opulent barges, chrome detailing and big block everything, they really don’t get who the Beetle is for.

Of course, nowadays many people call the Bug a girl’s car (the old one, the jury is still out on the 2012 model), and so I began to wonder what’s changed, and why are automakers creating cars specifically to women. Why have we accepted that some cars are for girls, especially French ones, and does it really mean XX wants a different set of wheels from XY.

And so I asked around! The guys seemed to think that small cars, and especially convertible small cars appeal to the fare sex. Certainly, John Wayne wouldn’t look good in a Kia Picanto, but he might drive one if he worked for the post office instead of being a movie star.

I already know that some women like to overcompensate for not packing the same… equipment, and buy the biggest SUV they can find. But if automakers tried to predict that, it would be like making dog food in the hopes that cats will also like it.

The answers I got from women themselves what that they wanted the badge, the looks the economy and the practicality, in that order. They tried to convince me that’s unique to their ‘sub-species’, but it’s really not.

If we wanted to test this axiom, we’d have to assume that men want ugly, uneconomical and impractical vehicles, and that simply isn’t true. The guy delivering pizza for a living loves his old Peugeot 107 just as much as the cashier at your local grocery store. And both probably want a better car if they could afford it.

But is it just my imagination that automakers are targeting women more with some cars? Certainly not, as most of the time the interior fabric and color departments are filled with them, something I’ve noticed with Citroen and Peugeot especially. That’s not a mistake, since the French have some really well coordinated interiors, but what is annoying the time and resources waisted by marketing and research teams.

So why are automakers doing this? Probably in order to find that Holy Grail called a new segment. The novelty item that they have and nobody else does for a couple of years. But trying to cater more to women isn’t just proof that we’re not trying to be equal, but it’s also useless in some cases and to varying degrees.

If you combine cute and small, you’d get something like the Ford Ka, which females will say they want but they’ll never actually buy. Now combine cute with a convertible top, and you get stuff like the MINI Convertible or the Renault Wind or notably the Ford SteetKa from a while back. They’re not awful but not exactly market leaders.

Now, I’m not saying that the Fiat 500 is bad in any way just because girls like it. But if I see a man in one I naturally feel there’s something off, that he’s not having a good time in his girlfriend’s car. So it’s scaring me off, and it might scare female buyers off if they think they are falling into a stereotype. And anyway, asking a women for her opinion and then making her stick to it is a bit trying to herd a bunch of cats. You’re never going to get what they want right.

Please don’t get the wrong idea here. What I’m saying is that instead of making gender-specific cars, how about making something very reliable, fun, good looking and practical, because that’s what we all want, not pink carpets and bigger rear-view mirrors that double as compact vanity cases. Because in 5 years time it will turn into an embarrassment for the automaker, as the novelty is lost the buyer has moved on to a regular crossover, which doesn’t have pink trim on the dash, but comes with free servicing. Barbie and Kent don’t exist in the real world, so stop making cars according to XX and XY!
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About the author: Mihnea Radu
Mihnea Radu profile photo

Mihnea's favorite cars have already been built, the so-called modern classics from the '80s and '90s. He also loves local car culture from all over the world, so don't be surprised to see him getting excited about weird Japanese imports, low-rider VWs out of Germany, replicas from Russia or LS swaps down in Florida.
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