By on May 19, 2015

McLaren MP4-12C Circa January 2012

Those dealing in luxury vehicles and high-performance exotics may need to improve their relations with women soon, as more women seek such wares.

While less than 10 percent of Lamborghini and Ferrari owners in the United States are women, and Porsche only boasts 25 percent, female consumers in emerging markets like China are flexing their wealth with the automakers’ models in significant numbers, Reuters reports. The overall female consumer base is expanding, as well, fueled by increasing wealth as more and more women enter into greater positions of power.

However, marketing leaves a lot to be desired, especially as some automakers are wary of appealing to the new consumer base. Lamborghini CEO Stephan Winkelmann explains:

It’s like with an engineering degree which attracts more men than women, that’s just how it is. Males are more into the car business and the super sportscar is the pinnacle of that business.

On the other side, automotive consultant Belinda Parmar says high-end and exotic manufacturers should consider women drivers when designing vehicles. Her work with Aston Martin on its planned crossover is slated to have a higher sitting position and smaller steering wheel, allowing those wearing skirts to enter and exit without having to worry about feeling “silly” about the matter.

[Photo credit: Axion23/Flickr/CC BY 2.0]

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44 Comments on “Luxury Automakers Wary Around Growing Female Consumer Base...”


  • avatar
    Chan

    Help a sports car company design a CUV that’s easier for women to board.

    All I do is bring my Toyota RAV4 in to work and show the engineers the ride height.

    Seriously? Where do I sign for this job?

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    These women should ask their husbands which car is appropriate for them to drive to their shopping, now that we let them drive.

    :D

  • avatar

    The auto industry has been fairly successfully marketing to women since the early days of the industry.

    Women were a primary market for electric cars (Clara (Mrs. Henry) Ford and Helen Newberry Joy (whose husband Henry Bourne Joy made Packard into the success it was) both owned and drove Detroit Electrics.

    Charles Kettering’s development of the first commercially successful electric self-starter was in no small part driven by the needs of women drivers. The same is true about the development of the automatic transmission. In the context of Cameron’s post and the article at Reuters regarding ultra-luxury and supercar makers, Kettering’s starter was introduced by Cadillac, and the first practical automatic was introduced by Oldsmobile, one of GM’s higher tier brands.

    • 0 avatar
      Detroit-Iron

      The industry has always been fine (adjusting for the times, of course), the dealers continue to be appalling.

      • 0 avatar

        Mom, successful real estate exec. Goes car shopping. The second gen TL gave up after 7 years of NYC streets.

        Cross shops E class and 5 series. MB shop asks if she is coming back “with her husband” to make the decision.

        She loves the 535i, with every option…..

        • 0 avatar
          VenomV12

          @speedlaw,

          It isn’t just to women. I have a neighbor who years ago when he became the president of his firm decided to upgrade his cars. He always drove cheap cars because he didn’t want his clients to think he was ripping them off even though he makes $600,000 plus a year. So he goes to BMW one Saturday in his cheap car, some like $18,000 or so GM vehicle, forgot which one, in a t-shirt and shorts, they completely ignored him. He drove further out of town to another BMW dealership and a guy comes right out and talks to him, he buys a loaded 5 series and X5 for his wife, cash. He then drives them back to the other dealership and shows them the business they lost. Every 3 years he buy a new 5 series and X5 from the dealership that took care of him. Idiot salespeople can kill your business fast.

      • 0 avatar
        cpthaddock

        Yes, dealers are often jerks to women and their service departments worse still. Still, it’s a joy to see how well my wife can work them.

        Family folklore requires the annual re-telling of how she called a scumbag dealers bluff when they tried to force her to refi at a higher rate a week after taking delivery. She made them give her trade back and they go their, now used, car back again. I’ve seen her demand a salesperson be replaced part way through negotiation. Yes girls, you can and should let these wankers know how you expect to be treated, or just walk.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        In defense of car dealers, they act like insufferable dicksmacks to everyone.

        • 0 avatar
          nitroxide

          True story. A few years back, I visited a Toyota dealer looking for a nice, used SUV. The salesperson wouldn’t tell me how much a particular vehicle costs, just that it goes for “around $30,000 or $40,000”. What the heck kind of answer is that?! I immediately say no thanks and I start walking away. He’s walking with me and I ask if he had anything else under $30,000. He asks me my name, and I tell him it (it’s very Russian/polish sounding) and he chuckles and says “you should’ve told me your name was Goldberg!” What he doesn’t know is that I’m Jewish and this is DEEPLY offensive. Even if I wasn’t Jewish, it still wouldn’t be right. What a moron. I won’t ever visit that Toyota dealer in Louisville, Ky. ever again.

  • avatar
    MrGreenMan

    So, this illuminating article from Reuters has such advice as:

    Extremely successful and independently wealthy Swiss German women want to drive an extremely fast Italian car, and they think all women would be just as happy doing the same.

    Most women actually buy smaller, cheaper, more fuel efficient models, says True Car.

    The consultant who really was excited about “being heard” had the laurels from getting a smaller steering wheel and a higher seating position on a brand-defying hyperlux CUV. She talked about wearing a skirt. Most women don’t wear skirts anymore.

    There is then the requisite angry woman who brought her husband along to buy a Maserati, yet they kept talking to him. (Perhaps she shouldn’t bring him along? No, of course, the dealership must change.)

    There are examples provided of times when these dealers tried to do things women-oriented and were told they were patronizing them.

    So, yeah, it appears:

    1. Make women a CUV. This will cater to 90% of them that weren’t ever buying your cars.
    2. Keep making the exact same cars. The 10% oddballs like the Swiss Red Sonja and the Maserati woman will buy it and just complain. Ignore their complaints; they want something to complain about, anyway, they like the product and will pay already for what you are doing.

    Edit: I was being uncharitable.

    3. Find the independelty-wealthy Swiss women who aren’t already customers. Go visit them directly; maybe bring the product but no naked girls. Ask them to buy. There can only be so many in this audience. What better model to adopt than that of the door-to-door Encyclopedia salesman? It worked for Avon.

    • 0 avatar

      It was a lame article at Reuters but undoubtedly female consumers are one reason why all the luxury and ultra luxury brands are making some kind of SUV/CUV, and makers of high performance cars can’t ignore the fact that 25% of Porsche buyers worldwide are women and in China about the same percentage of Ferrari buyers are women.

      It remains to be seen, though, if women are not, in a 50 Shades of Grey manner, already attracted to the Alpha masculinity of the fastest cars in the world.

  • avatar
    slow kills

    Powerful women need clutch pedals. Make sure they get the message. We think you are weak and not our equal if you can’t manually shift a gear.

  • avatar

    You NEVER let your girlfriend use THE RED KEY…

    • 0 avatar
      cpthaddock

      Chicken!

    • 0 avatar
      VenomV12

      Most Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Bentley Continental GTs, SL65 AMGs, Cayenne Turbo S etc etc I see are driven by women, I think they can handle the red key just fine.

      • 0 avatar
        ellomdian

        Slowly, around shopping center parking lots.

        The proliferation of female influence at the top of the price bracket is what’s influenced AMG and M to become just-another-trim package.

        Seriously, most of the expensive women I know and work with are more than happy to drive a Land Rover – and it has nothing to do with skirts. There may be money to be made marketing hyper-masculine cars to women, but I have to wonder if you endanger your bread-and-butter market of young males with too much money, and old men who try to hide receding hairlines with flashy rides.

        And if the last 3 years have taught us ANYTHING, it’s that it can be dangerous to base a major marketing strategy around what you think China is doing. Unless you’re prepared to create a sub-brand just for that market when your nameplate gets banned by the Central Government.

  • avatar
    Wscott97

    I’m surprised that Porsche is only at 25% female buyers. The Boxster has always been a Chick car (thanks legally blond) and the new Macan has Rich trendy housewife written all over it. I rarely see women driving the Panamera, those are usually driven by middle aged corporate men with a family that doesn’t want to wait until he’s retired and the kids are out of the house to finally buy his dream car.

    Whenever I think of women driving an exotic sports car, I think of National Lampoons Vacation to Wally World or at a carwash.

  • avatar
    TW5

    Post high-school education is 45% men and 55% women. This was inevitable. Plus, men tend to fall for the siren’s song of the chromed out commuter pickup.

    • 0 avatar

      Funny how despite those statistics there are still Title IX compliance offices and feminist bureaucrats to staff them on most campuses. With college administrators embracing (under threat from the Dept. of Ed.) the Rape Culture hoax, I can only see fewer men attending college.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I couldn’t agree more Ronnie.

      • 0 avatar
        Ron

        Fifty Shades of Grey? Rape Culture hoax? Ronnie, someone is posting silly comments under your name.

        • 0 avatar
          redav

          The “rape culture” constantly touted by certain activist groups is a myth. To understand that, you have to understand what they think the “rape culture” is.
          – They think men do not know that rape is wrong. However, in western society pretty much every man knows what rape is and that it’s wrong.
          – They claim numbers like 1 in 4 women are raped. Every legitimate crime statistic demonstrates this to be false. Instead, they expand the definition of rape, such as if someone regretted having sex the night before, then it’s rape.
          – They claim statistics that would put around 1 in 3 men as rapists. Again, such numbers are not supported by any crime statistics.
          – They claim that false rape accusations either don’t happen or don’t matter. The infamous Rolling Stone article is a prime example of how we are to just believe & take action regardless of evidence.
          – They claim that rape is not taken seriously by the justice system and that rapists are not prosecuted.

          Their claims are false, and thus the image of the “culture” they try to paint is also incorrect. Hence, it is a myth.

      • 0 avatar
        an innocent man

        +1 “A Rolling Stone gathers no evidence,” as they say.

      • 0 avatar
        orenwolf

        Ronnie, 28, CJ, redav:

        I’m not sure what point you’re trying to make here. Because you believe incidences of rape are overblown.. what? Women don’t deserve equality in purchasing vehicles? Or the benefit of the doubt if they declare they were assaulted? Or that somehow men can’t go to college because they’ll be accused of being rapists?

        I never personally believed the issue of women’s inequality was an issue until I saw how vociferously men seem to fight to defend untenable positions of sexism and descrimination in “typically” male activities, like, apparently, cars.

        My GF and I agreed we’d make a choice of vehicle together. We agreed not to purchase a vehicle either of us did not want. It so happened we both wanted a spirited, well-balanced, attgractive, sporty one. According to 28, I’m now a SJW for pointing out that *this is how it should be*, and that it’s wrong when my GF is treated differently at a dealership?

        It’s not that hard a concept. Really. Just ask instead of assuming. I really don’t get why more car salesman can’t ask “What kind of car are you looking for” before pushing them towards whatever they think they want (or, more probably, whatever they have overstock of at the moment). Least effort, I suppose.

    • 0 avatar
      RideHeight

      Bingo. It’s increasingly a woman’s world anywhere unstained by islam and I’m pleased by that.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Why, exactly?

        • 0 avatar
          orenwolf

          ..because thousands of years of treating them as the “lesser sex” needs to be righted already?

          My girlfriend *loves* driving my RX8. She would not let me ever buy an SUV/CUV, because they’re too “girly”. Mistake #1 is believing that women only want “girl” products. This only increases the younger (and more empowered) you go, and is *exactly as it should be*.

          Women should be able (and marketed to be able) to purchase any vehicle they want. Just like a man can get a cute-ute if they so desire. My GF’s dream car is a MX5, after all. :)

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            You sound like you did well, so kudos to you and your loved one, but playing the SJW card only demeans yourself.

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            “She would not let me ever buy an SUV/CUV, because they’re too ‘girly’.”

            You do know that the very concept of your girlfriend letting or not letting you buy anything is pretty “girly”?

          • 0 avatar
            redav

            I don’t get this “be able to purchase” angle. Do people really believe that a woman could not walk into any dealership and buy any ‘manly’ car they have the means to buy? Do people believe that how a product is marketed affects people’s opportunities? Or, is the idea that sports cars are not designed with enough seat travel to fit women’s different body proportions? (Cycling could be criticized for that–fewer high-end race-type bikes are built for women’s proportions; thus there are fewer options available to them.)

            I see nothing wrong with targeted marketing. The potential market for sports cars is predominantly male. That’s not bad/wrong. Women are not disadvantaged/defective if they are not interested in sports cars. (In other words, we have neither reason nor mandate to try to turn women into men.) For women who are interested in sports cars, if a company’s marketing/product does not appeal to women, then they run the risk of losing that share of the market. If a company believes they can gain an advantage by marketing to women, then let them and have the market decide their reward. But at no time should anyone expect that being a desired customer is a right or that any marketing should be targeted to them. (After all, you can turn off the TV, install an ad blocker, & in general stop consuming media, and the result is that they will not receive anyone’s marketing–and that is not bad.)

            A problem that can happen is when people fail to acknowledge that attitudes & behaviors follow distributions, not universal absolutes. Nevertheless, if distributions are sufficiently different, general rules are fine and productive. For example, men are taller than women. Yes, there are women who are taller than men, but if you are designing products that depend on people’s heights, sex matters. (A classic example is countertop heights. The standard came from military ergonomic data, i.e., mostly young, healthy males. Countertops for decades were made too tall for most women to be ergonomically correct.)

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            @CJ

            Exactly.

            @redav

            Nice concise post on the matter.

  • avatar
    heavy handle

    The R8’s gotta be at least 50-50, judging by the ones I see around town.

  • avatar
    JimC2

    This article has been up half the day and still no one has yet mentioned the term “cougarmobile?” Or cougarsupermobile… or supercougarmobile…

  • avatar

    It was a woman who was behind the wheel of the Porsche Cayenne GTS sitting in front of me as I waited to enter the roundabout in affluent West Bloomfield, Michigan. I was taking my mother to a medical appointment. I said “behind the wheel”, and “sitting”, because she certainly wasn’t driving. As traffic cleared, she sat, and then sat some more, even though there wasn’t anyone in the roundabout. Finally, when there wasn’t anyone even approaching the roundabout, she pulled forward.

    A Cayenne GTS has, if I’m not mistaken, all of the go-fast parts you can get on a Cayenne, including the turbo engine.

    It so happens that I was driving another high performance crossover, an Audi SQ5. It was a very impressive car but it left me wondering what the point of a high performance crossover was.

    After we navigated the roundabout I happened to follow the lady till she pulled into a parking lot where there were some retail stores. That’s when I realized the purpose of a high performance crossover. It’s so hubby can have fun driving it when he’s driving around the family on weekends. She gets the status of a premium branded family car and he gets to press the S button.

    • 0 avatar
      VenomV12

      No, it has everything the Turbo has except the turbo which is what I assume you meant. One of my neighbors has an Audi S8 that he drives and his wife has a Cayenne Turbo S. I have no goddamn idea why she would want or need a Cayenne Turbo S as a stay at home wife in her 50s, but she has one. I’ve seen no shortage of women with Range Rover Supercharged’s either. I can only imagine most of these decisions center on buying the most expensive car on the lot without knowing what it actually is. The new Bentley SUV is going to sell so well it will make our heads spin. I can imagine the snobbery when Lucy looks down on Betty and tells her she’s sorry her husband could only afford to get her a Range Rover Autobiography and not the new Bentley SUV like she got.

      • 0 avatar
        duffman13

        I know that I’ve read plenty about executives buying M and AMG sedans in the past and complaining that the ride was too harsh and the brakes were too noisy. There is a whole thread out there about GT-Rs having squeaky brakes. Buying the performance model with the biggest motor because it’s the most expensive one has been a thing for a while.

        It seems like it’s just been more recently that carmakers realize who’s actually buying these things, so they keep the big motor, soften the suspension and tone down the pad compounds in order to keep Joe Executive and his wife happy. The M/AMG/Turbo luxury SUVs were just a logical progression from there.

  • avatar
    windnsea00

    I see a large amount of women driving high end cars in LA on a daily basis, especially Porsche. Sunday I had the pleasure of driving next to quite a good looking girl winding out a black Ferrari 458 enthusiastically on Sunset.

  • avatar
    Car-los

    Do the sport car manufactures need to make sport cars more women friendly? Really?

    As that BMW executive said once, the sport car is now dead. And, with a very few exceptions, it’s dead for good.

    The days when Enzo Ferrari would refuse to sell you a car if he didn’t think that you understood his cars and wanted to buy it solely because you could afford it, forcing Ferruccio Lamborghini go and make his own sport car and starting the super car chapter history are all but gone.

    I’m not saying this is a bad thing, or a good one, but those days when real car enthusiasts would make cars for car enthusiasts are all but gone.

    Today’s sport cars in general are nothing more that super powerful luxury badges and as such they are being designed with metrosexuals (curios or not) and women (trophy wives included) in mind.

    Again, nothing particularly wrong with this. It all comes to economics. With the added bonus to the manufactures of the strict regulations taking cars to the self-driving realm so they are not seen entirely as Dr. Faust.

    The exotic car industry has done everything but alienating woman and metros.

    Enzo Ferrari initially even refused to use the Ferrari badge in the Dino, hence the Dino brand had to be created.

    What do you think Enzo and his generation of sport car makers would had thought if you had told them that the day would come when you would only be able to buy a (new) Ferrari with an automatic transmission, traction control and electric steering?

    Whether for the economics or politically correctness or in the name of a protective regulation to protect you from your self, the pony has been castrated and is being bought by women and metrosexuals like never before.

    Here is to you Enzo, wherever you are:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9PJY-k1n9Yw

  • avatar
    blueflame6

    It’s always interesting to me how some people seem to have not gotten the memo that being a sexist jerk is no longer acceptable. How about this? 1) Make cars that appeal to people. 2) Sell as many of those cars to as many of those people as possible. 3) Profit.


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