By on July 10, 2006

ap_logo.gifI’m not a big fan of segregation.  Obviously, US car culture splits into distinct niches: hot rodders, low-riders, urban gangstas, tuners, etc.  Equally obvious, these niches attract adherents from specific ethnic groups.  But just as communities throughout my home state meet down at the markets as they root around for fresh ingredients for their ethnic cuisine, there is an element of respect and inter-mingling between these petrol-powered fraternities.  Anyway, I don’t get the male – female automotive divide.  I seriously doubt that there’s a female automotive perspective– even when it comes to child safety and minivanning.  So when I saw a press release about a new female-oriented automotive website, I decided to do what it said on the tin: ask Patty.  Turns out “Patty” is a male invention and the company producing the website makes its money sensitizing dealers to “women’s needs.”  I quizzed Jody Devere, President of www.askpatty.com, about the statistical justification for the segregation.        

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25 Comments on “Ask Patty. Go on, you know you want to…...”


  • avatar
    sleepingbear

    just a wild guess, but i think the women’s car culture is embodied in the Mercedes Brand, at least in this household.

  • avatar
    Stephan Wilkinson

    My take is that this is a guy (Farago) asking some pretty simplistic questions and a woman (Devere) answering them enormously competently.

  • avatar

    Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

  • avatar
    manager of service

    In listening to the interview and reading the lead in paragraph it seems that Mr Farago was trying to belittle Ms Devere and Ask Patty’s appraoch to changing the way automotive service writers and automotive sales persons approach women customers.
    As a ASE certified Master Technician with 20+ years experience and the service manager of a large independent automotive repair facility, I know for a fact that women Do approach repairs on their vehicles differently than men do. They do not feel as comfortable asking questions as to the what, why and hows of the repairs needed as most men do because they sometimes feel belittled by the fact that they do not know the inner workings of their vehicles. They do not feel that they can trust that their hard earned money is really being spent in an approprate manner for the same reason. with that said so do many men.
    This is the very same reason that I belive ASK PATTY and its content is very much needed and beneficial to the automotive industry as a whole.
    Cudos to Ms Devere and Peter Martin

  • avatar
    jazzjunkee

    I’m shocked that anyone would question whether there’s a difference between a man vs. a women’s experience or perspective in either buying a car or taking a car in for repair/service.

    In many cultures, right or wrong, boys are typically the ones who are encouraged to explore cars and their inner workings, etc. Starting with the toys boys tend to play with vs. girls, many men are much more comfortable than women when it comes to shopping for and taking care of vehicles. There is that unspoken cultural message: cars are for boys and dolls are for girls.

    I happen to work for a 3rd party car parts retailer who has been selling aftermarket products to car enthusiasts for over 50 years. the demographic is almost entirely male. I think this speaks something to the interest and/or comfort level of women and cars.

    Personally, I have been told in my life numerous times by numerous people to make sure to “take a guy with me” to a mechanic so that I don’t get ripped off as the stereotypical woman who doesn’t know a thing about cars. And I can say that it is not a myth. One of my first repair experiences was unfortunately one of being ripped off and taken advantage of because of my lack of knowledge. This was pointed out to me by a guy friend of mine who unveiled the mystery, popped open the hood to my vehicle and fixed something with a $2 screwdriver that the repair facility wanted to charge me hundreds of dollars for. In fact the “big problem” that turned out to be a little problem began after taking my car to them in the first place.

    Hats off to Ms. DeVere, AskPatty.com and the dealerships or repair facilities who are making efforts to change these stereotypes and empower women to feel more comfortable, be better informed and make better decisions.

  • avatar
    Johnny Canada

    Ask Patty Death Watch #1

  • avatar
    Terry Parkhurst

    It reminds me of the time, in mid-May, when a friend asked me why it was important for Danica Patrick to win the Indy 500. I simply replied, “Because it would be history.” But this discussion reminds me that there would be more to it – assuming she does indeed do it sometime (perhaps just before taking a more lucrative contract driving “stock cars” in NASCAR).
    If a woman won the Indy 500, it might finally mean that there would be no more “targeted marketing” – of web sites or automobiles – and when a woman business owner answered the phone of her shop, she wouldn’t get some lunkhead asking for “someone who knows what they’re talking about.” (This is not an apocryphal story. I have actually heard of this happening, several times, to women owners of auto repair facilities.)
    Its akin to affirmative action: at some point it comes together or one starts to look for other strategies. When things come together in the world of automobiles, we won’t need AskPatty sites. Women won’t be afraid to challenge the “circus manager” (as the late British racer and racecar developer, Ken Miles, once called his job when he was service manager).
    Here’s the deal: going to get auto repairs done is akin to going to a dentist or doctor. No one would think to put out good money there without asking, “Is this really necessary, at this time?” And if they were told, “Hey, sorry but you’ve got cancer and you’re going to check out in about two weeks,” certainly a second opinion would be called for.
    Forget gender; just admit your ignorance, if you have it, and ask questions until you don’t have any, anymore. My pal Larry Dreon, owner of Daiseywagen Foreign Car Service, once told me, “Terry, no one works on their car anymore.” Having been raised in a blue collar neighborhood in the blue collar town of Tacoma WA, my jaw dropped as Larry continued, “And when someone asks us a question, it’s a woman, because she’s afraid of being ripped off. The guys, especially the young guys, just ask how much it is, mull it over a bit, then take out their credit card.”
    So there it is – with one caveat. Having worked a bit at some auto parts facilities, I can say that some people do indeed still work on their own cars – people who like doing that as a hobby or because they don’t have much credit or money. But people who take their Volvos to Daiseywagen, don’t fall into either category. It is more unusual to see a college professor turning a wrench or reading a diagnostic scope on his Volvo V70 station wagon than Ann Coulter making sense.

  • avatar

    Terry–

    Your comment on Danica Patrick as this comparison rings very dear to my heart…

    You might be very interested in my podcast interview on women the struggle of women racers and the support given by the WAAI.com ( I am President) of Lyn St James her Foundation and driver development program. Danica Patrick, Erin Crocker and Deborah Renshaw, the current highest ranked NASCAR driver are all graduates.

    http://www.prweb.com/releases/female/racecar/prweb402179.htm

    I really get up on my my soapbox during this interview!

    Thank you Robert for the interview, lively discussion and to all for your comments!

    Jody DeVere
    President
    Ask Patty
    http://www.askpatty.com

  • avatar
    Rita

    Resigning/retiring from the automotive industry after 7 yrs. as a Sales Manager/Service Manager/GSM …. I left to pursue my art, writing, and training classes. I teach womens’ automotive classes in a language format that compels comfort, clear communication, and responsiveness from within the service department. I recognized the need prior to ever entering the automotive industry (based on personal experience) but as a top ranking manager saw the pervasive trend throughout all levels within the dealership. After 5 yrs. of teaching onsite classes – 2xs per month – there was no longer any conjecture that womens’ needs/perspective were seen and handled differently.

    I think it’s wonderful that through his own personal growth and curiosity that Mr. Farago has publicized so effectively a much needed issue within many “ethinicity” based industries. This isn’t about division of anything…it’s about quality communication, customer approaches, and top notched customer service and care.

    Within any area our level of communication is our own responsibility and when that communication is pointed out to be faulty by the consumer/listener then there is no argument – you simply take the steps to correct, improve, and grow forward.

  • avatar
    Steve_S

    It???s no surprise that men and women want different things in a car or have different experiences in car buying. Just take a 3 year old boy and a 3 year old girl and put them in a room filled with both ???boy??? and ???girl??? toys and even through they will cross play they will gravitate towards what we think of as gender specific toys. It???s the same reason more of your Comp Sci, Engineers, and technical related fields tend to appeal to men and any field dealing with people or expression whether its psychology, medicine, or art you see more women. It???s just the way we are made. Repair shops mostly owned by men figure they can put one over on a woman since she won???t know what they are talking about. Actually it???s the same with luxury brand cars no matter who is bringing it in, repair shops figure well if they can afford the car they can afford whatever I tell them for the repair.

    I do think the Ask Patty site will benefit and generate more interest from single or divorced women. Most women with a man in the family will just let them handle the car buying process. Daughters will take their dads and wives their husbands and I bet a lot of single women take boyfriends or guy friends when they buy.

  • avatar
    dolo54

    I think the concept of having a woman-focused automotive site is a good one, however, after having visited askpatty, I can see that they have a loooong way to go before becoming a useful tool. Most of the links are broken or go to subscriber-only news sites. None of the content actually exists on the site, but is all linked to 3rd party sites. Askpatty.com is really just one page and a pretty lame one at that. Hope they didn’t spend much, cause it’s pretty sad.

  • avatar
    dolo54

    correction – it’s a few pages, with mostly broken links on the home page.

  • avatar
    BreanneB

    I was raised in an automotive family. My grandfather built hot rods and did chassis fabrication and my brother continues in his footsteps. I grew up going to car shows and answering my dad???s quiz questions on road trips: ???What car is that???? Shouts from the back seat: ???1932 Ford!???

    After I graduated college I began working in the automotive industry at a large publishing company. I worked on many automotive titles including Motor Trend and European Car. I???ve stayed in the automotive industry and worked at agencies and as a freelance writer for car titles and car blogs. I am also a member of the Motor Press Guild.

    Even with all that car know-how under my belt, I Still look at cars differently than my husband when we are at the dealership. I tend to wonder about safety and maintenance and cost of ownership, while he doesn???t think of these things.

    Even though I know more about the repair and maintenance needs of my car than he does, I still feel pressured and under-valued at the dealership service counter. Most of the employees there are men and most of them brush me aside and don???t assume I know anything. In fact, they often default to my husband, who (smartly) points to me and says, ???Ask her. She???s the car person in the family.??? Usually I am met with incredulous looks.

    Here???s the thing??? countless books have been written about how men and women think and about how incredibly different they truly are. The different preferences and procedures of men and women is not a new idea. Perhaps Farago forgot this.

    In my opinion, women tend to be more safety-conscious (In this fact, Jody and I agree) than men. Think about it in a purely simplified way: Traditionally women are the caretakers in the family, so logically their concerns when it comes to car buying would lie in what would protect their family.

    And because, in general, women are less knowledgeable on car repair and maintenance ??? I said in general ??? they may prefer a new car that comes with an easy or hassle-free maintenance program. BMW comes to mind.

    I think saying there isn???t a difference in need between the two sexes is ignorant or, at the very least, uninformed.

  • avatar
    vallux06

    Why, a woman-focused automotive site is a very great idea!!! About as good as a site focused on men knitting!!! Get over your gender/color etc. bias!!!

  • avatar
    BreanneB

    I was raised in an automotive family. My grandfather built hot rods and did chassis fabrication and my brother continues in his footsteps. I grew up going to car shows and answering my dad???s quiz questions on road trips: “What car is that?”? Shouts from the back seat: “1932 Ford!”

    After I graduated college I began working in the automotive industry at a large publishing company. I worked on many automotive titles including Motor Trend and European Car. I’ve stayed in the automotive industry and worked at agencies and as a freelance writer for car titles and car blogs. I am also a member of the Motor Press Guild.

    Even with all that car know-how under my belt, I Still look at cars differently than my husband when we are at the dealership. I tend to wonder about safety and maintenance and cost of ownership, while he doesn’t think of these things.

    Even though I know more about the repair and maintenance needs of my car than he does, I still feel pressured and under-valued at the dealership service counter. Most of the employees there are men and most of them brush me aside and don’t assume I know anything. In fact, they often default to my husband, who (smartly) points to me and says, “Ask her. She’s the car person in the family.”? Usually I am met with incredulous looks.

    Here’s the thing, countless books have been written about how men and women think and about how incredibly different they truly are. The different preferences and procedures of men and women is not a new idea. Perhaps Farago forgot this.

    In my opinion, women tend to be more safety-conscious (In this fact, Jody and I agree) than men. Think about it in a purely simplified way: Traditionally women are the caretakers in the family, so logically their concerns when it comes to car buying would lie in what would protect their family.

    And because, in general, women are less knowledgeable on car repair and maintenance-I said in general-they may prefer a new car that comes with an easy or hassle-free maintenance program. BMW comes to mind.

    I think saying there isn’t a difference in need between the two sexes is ignorant or, at the very least, uninformed.

  • avatar
    stryker1

    Yeah, have to agree with the interviewee here. We just got done talking about how block-headed, and agressive most salesmen are. Is it so hard to believe that, in general, they’d be eager to turn this aggressive stance on what they likely percieve (even if incorrectly) as the weaker more submissive sex?

    Even if its hard to prove in general, I know that this site is something I’d personally like my girlfreind to look at just so that the next time she needs brake work done on her jeep cherokee , she doesn’t get swindled into buying all new rotors oh, and you need an engine flush (only $90) when all she really needs is pads.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    I married a woman who came from a good motorhead background. Her grandfather raced in the 1930’s-40’s, her father raced in the 60’s and she was our timing and scoring ‘girl’ back when I was part of a short track dirt effort in the 80’s. My 16 year-old daughter can change her own oil, flat tires and brake pads if necessary.

    The lease was up on the car we were driving. She had picked out the replacement for it, knew the model, equipment level and pricing of the car she had decided upon. When we went to speak to the dealer, even though every question he asked, she answered, he looked to me. I would just turn and point to her for the answer, but he would look to me, every time.

    If the shoe were on the other foot, I would be pissed. But I don’t think women ‘default’ into pissed mode for stuff like that. I think they’re trained (by society as a whole) not to be aggressive, or interrupt in situations like that.

    Finally, after a few more passages with the sales jockey, he got the message that this was her deal. It was the easiest negotiation for a car that I’ve been through in a while. (I just had to show up and co-sign papers!)

    During in my time in the dealership (years ago) I saw this kind of thing over and over again. Women salespersons were considered bad luck or, like typhoid Mary, something to be avoided. Except when we were having beers after work, then the rules of the jungle applied there.

    I still advise women I know to take a male relative with them for anything concerned with automobiles (I know, it sounds like a Taliban edict). The automotive world is still very much a man’s world, and if the guy even remotely looks like he might know what he’s talking about, the sharks will usually leave them alone.

  • avatar
    Superstition6

    Dear Mr. Farago, I have a secret I must share with you. I hope to be able to enter this data and post it before its contents and intent are recognized and assassins are dispatched. The “Ask Patty” website is one component of a complicated web of deceptions, propagated with a view to maintaining the illusion that women are excluded from the important decisions made inside the male-dominated auto industry. In fact, women are in charge, and have been, apparently for a long time now. This became clear to me during a lucid moment I experienced, while stuck in a traffic jam behind two ninety-pound Asian females, who were listening to hip-hop and bouncing up and down in the front seats of one of those Honda miniature plastic cars. While I reflected on the fact that I would be unable to squeeze even one of my quadriceps into the driver’s side of that vehicle without first removing the steering wheel and the dash and the front seat, I realized that those subminiature girls were “precisely who that car was designed for!” Then, it was but a short leap to the delusion that those girls were also “precisely who that car must have been designed BY!” I can’t say with certainty when this transition of power occurred, but I remember being able to fit in vehicles in the sixties, and maybe even part of the way through the seventies. If you can find Derek Flint’s pager number, now is the time to use it.

  • avatar
    Lesley

    ~Shrug~ It’s taken a few years, but I feel on equal and comfortable footing with most parts and service guys in my community. I’m on a first name basis with a lot of hop-up parts shop guys and dealership order counters thanks to a three year span when I had a hunk of pushrod V8 iron in the mudroom off my kitchen. I’m sure I asked a lot of goofy questions, but I know that they respected the amount of research that I did – and that I was comfortable enough receiving advice without taking umbrage.
    ‘Course… salesmen are a different breed than shop guys – I have to admit to a certain amount of glee at tripping them up or catching them slinging a line of b.s. and the look of horror on their faces at being called on it by a fricking blonde is priceless.

  • avatar
    Jonathan Tomer

    Is there any chance of getting transcripts of these interviews posted? I can’t listen to them at work.

  • avatar
    GEMorris

    To the service manager who was the third respondee:

    Even worse is how technicians act to women who KNOW about cars. My fiance knows exactly how engines, transmissions, and suspensions work. However if she takes her car to a service location and trys to tell the technician what is wrong, oh dear lord you have never seen such indignation.

  • avatar
    Lesley

    I love that. Especially when I’m right. :)

  • avatar
    manager of service

    To GEMorris, I have been fortunate to have met quite a few Ladies that know there way around cars and we have discussed this topic. We ahve actually tricked a couple of different techjnicians by requesting a diagnosis of a specific problem and then having the Lady ask the technician pointed technical questions about the problem. this does two things 1) it allows us to find quality technicians who can honestly diagnose and explain a failure and 2) thoroughly confuse an otherwise confident technician because the next time the technician explains a problem they will not know if the customer already knows the answer. I think this helps to keep the technician humble and most of all honest.


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