Mercedes-Benz Isn't Popular With Women, but Wooing Them Could Be Dangerous

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

Women play a very large role in the purchase of new vehicles, and automakers are scrambling to tap into the demographic — among them, the staid, dignified and traditionally male-centric Mercedes-Benz.

The German automaker wants to throw off that old image and make itself the top premium car brand for women by 2020, according to Automotive News.

It’s a tall order for Mercedes-Benz, given that its biggest markets see far more men purchasing its vehicles than women. Only 40 percent of its U.S. customers are women, a slice that falls to 25 percent in China. In its home country, only one in five buyers are female.

If it can appeal to the demographic, the rewards could be huge. Consulting firm Frost & Sullivan found that 80 percent of new vehicle purchases are affected by women, either through direct sales or by putting the kibosh on their partner’s choice.

Automotive News quotes CEO Dieter Zetsche, who recently said, “We first needed to create the awareness that we have great potential here and that’s where this somewhat cheeky saying came from that ‘Women are the new China.’ If we have potential in China, then we have even more potential when we increase the share of our women customers.”

Holding its own against strong-selling BMW and Audi means doing better on that front, but past attempts to woo the fairer sex — including sponsoring the international Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week — didn’t help sales.

Last year, the automaker launched the Internet-based “She’s Mercedes” marketing campaign to familiarize women with the brand, and an online “lifestyle configurator” was crafted to offer vehicle suggestions based on what music, food, and architecture users liked.

If this sounds potentially insulting, you’re not the only one to notice. Mercedes-Benz risks alienating women if it treats them as a precious commodity that doesn’t know the first thing about vehicles.

Take your pick from past marketing lessons, but the 1955–1956 Dodge La Femme stands out as one of the worst.

Chrysler Corporation tried to tap into the growing female car-buyer demographic by offering a dolled-up Custom Royal Lancer, complete with special “feminine” paint colors and accessories ranging from lipstick cases to face-powder compacts. Fewer than 2,500 were sold.

[Image: Mercedes-Benz USA]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • LeaseTheRightWay LeaseTheRightWay on Jun 07, 2016

    I actually find it the opposite where I live. In the brooklyn area i would say about 80% of the mercedes vehicles that you see on the road are being driven by women. But it wasn't always this way. It has grown drastically in the past 5 years to become 80%. I don't know what it's like in different cities but for brooklyn this is what I know for a fact.

  • Johnster Johnster on Jun 07, 2016

    I always thought that, over the years, the various Mercedes SL models seemed to be designed to appeal to women. They were too slow to appeal to men, especially the 190, 230, 250 and 280 SL models.

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