Want to sell more new cars? Listen really what women want!

woman car

photo credit: Domenico / Kiuz

Let us for a moment ‘in the shoes’ of a woman who works, manages house and children, goes to the bank, to the accountant, to a theater, in a library, and takes charge of organizing the weekend and holidays for the whole family. About this woman – in the world of automotive marketing in Italy – there is almost no trace.

Yet in our country, the balance of car registrations has progressed steadily towards equality of the sexes: official data of the Ministry show that in 2010 sales to women has reached to 41.4%!

Yankelovich researches (www.yankelovich.com) determines that in the United States as in Europe, women influences the process decision of buying a car in 85% of cases. 4 out of 10 cars are purchased by a woman, and customers at the official service dept of the networks represent 65% of work orders, showing a greater allegiance to dealerships and authorized service compared to the male audience. Nevertheless 74% of them said they feel misunderstood by automotive marketing: women, points out Bottom Line, consider the experience of visiting a car dealer how to remove a tooth!

 gender and age italian mkt

The behavior of salesmen and service receptionists against Women often leaves much to be desired.

We still have a long way to do if we think that many of the salesmen offers to women a small car completely neglecting the fact that for women the size of the car, the engine size and performance are no less important than they are for men. Shares of mystery shopping Kortus Shultes show that the behavior of salesmen and service personnel against women is often not the optimal one: the female customers often perceive a lack of respect, no empathy and fairness by the seller and many women lack confidence in the same dealership. Too many times a female customer is snobbed in the showroom of the dealership, she is not greeted by the salespeople and no one asks her what she wants; so the female customer will be obliged to take the initiative and ask questions to obtain information about a specific vehicle.

Add to these data is disappointing to know that the women pay up to $ 1,000 more to avoid negotiating the price of a car. Sure, there are also professional and well trained saleswomen and salesmen that deal with women buyers with great professionalism and availability, but this is not the norm.

We’re not talking about this only because the feminization of the world is a given unstoppable, but because a rapid change of mindset will allow those who sell cars do not miss the great potential represented by the female clientele!

Women and stereotypes.

Many TV spot are examples of this myopia: panther-women who move in evening dresses touching sensually  details of bumpers, beams and front grilles; but even famous testimonials slipping in the back seat of small cars driven by a chauffeur. I also felt at the radio the advertisement of a car which, through the distortion of all words into feminine words, would make the message more appealing to the women’s market, but it was – as imaginable – greatly criticized in the web. The only effort that many manufacturers propose to capture this important slice of the market seem to be only special editions of city car  with friezes and seats signed by famous fashion designers!

Dealers can and must play a decisive role.

The dutch dealership Van den Udenhout www.udenhout.nl regularly organizes the ‘Ladies Day’, an event during which the dealership team pampers guests with its initiatives and is sensitive to their interests and needs. The Ladies Day provides many activities and workshops with the participation of exhibitors and partners in the region that offer their services.

On this day the ladies can choose from different activities: cooking, exposure of jewelry, porcelain, scarf or scarves, but also beauty treatments, promotion of tourist destinations and much more. Moreover they can also develop road tests, participate in practical courses for when one is stranded or evidence that they are experienced as fast drivers or park in reverse. With this initiative, dedicated to the ladies, the dealer wants to achieve all its customers without focusing only on its most traditional (men).

The dealer is thus able to lower the inhibitions that keep women from entering the dealership and to strengthening the image of the dealership. Even Alberto Armaroli – after inventing the Volvo 245 Polar, so beloved by women and men – at the end of the 80’s had the first intuition to organize in some successful Volvo dealers some evening events have become cult, dedicated to female customers, with training and evidence of replacement tires, or snow chains assembly, training courses and gatherings, aiming at the self-sufficiency of the female drivers!

Women seek information, advise and they decide!

I have a reluctance to admit that – also in Italy – typing on Google ‘women and cars’ you can enter only video entitled ‘Women and sex drive’, or images of incredible car accidents carried out by women, concluding with photos of sexy women lying on the hood of sports cars. Unlike in many other countries in the rest of the world where it is interesting to note how women are organized in a structured way to better manage the purchase of their new or used car. The women talk online and are always looking for information and data, using social media, talking with other people. A research developed by NBC Universal Women’s and Lifestyle, says that 96% of women suggest to a friend a product they like, and 51% said they would purchase something based on a conversation. But we know that women have a greater ability to communicate in and out.

aversion for advertising

Women and the Web.

It is interesting to see the Australian site www.hercar.com.au where all the car reviews are written by women for women, where you can find explanations on how to access finance up to save fuel as taking care of the tires. The mission of www.womenbuycars.com is to provide a unique outlet for women where to find the list of dealerships that have been selected, tested and certified to ensure the customers buying process honest and fair. Another example is the English site www.evecars.com very oriented to the used cars market – where, if possible, women feel even more difficult – and where you can even find advice on what to ask and how to arrange a test drive.

Because, as stated in the site, as in most of the time (the choice of a new home, a partner or linen) when something does not feel ok for you… you perceive immediately. I especially liked the point of view of www.women-drivers.com where women and families can connect to a network of certified dealers ‘women driver friendly’. And there is also an interesting section for each model that provides not only a point of view but both: to her and to himself in a mirror. On price, performance, safety, aesthetics and style but also on intangible characteristics.

Women managers in the automotive.

Just to highlight all the possible ways in which a woman uses the car in 2010 and lives has been launched for the first time at the Bologna Motor Show ‘path Woman’, a journey inside the room specially designed to involve the female audience. This because the Managing Director of GL Events Giada Michetti is a Woman? Yet there are more women in the automotive managers: the authoritative journal Automotive News compiles the rankings of the best women working in the automotive world.

Of course, the number of female managers is still far from that of men, but some of them have important roles as Laura J. Soave, who heads the return of the Fiat brand in the U.S. after 25 years of waiting, or Mary Barra & Grace Lieblein Super-Executives of General Motors, Marti Euleberg vice president of Fisker Automotive, Ford Motor vice president Joy Falotico, Jill Lajdziak president of Smart USA, Deputy Terri Mulcahey Penske President or Annette Sykora of NADA.

Even in Italy there are many good entrepreneurs and saleswomen, but still too isolated in their reality. Even among manufacturers are emerging some promises that I hope will have the opportunity to reach senior management levels.

I think it’s time to listen to what women really look for when they buy a car, and to look at other points of view without continuing with female stereotypes associated with the car (between the clumsy or the femme fatale): neither our companions, nor our colleagues nor our daughters will never have or will feel represented with.

This are the thoughts of… a man!

Maurizio Sala

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  1. Fernando Rolim says:

    Maurizio, congratulations on the article and being speaker at Fenabrave once again!
    I don´t see myself an advertising expert nor I have precise data to judge how the Brazilian automotive marketing is treating the women, who are becoming almost the half of car buyers here as well. Not based on data but in my experience in Brazil, half or more of car salespeople are female and there are many women (not at that extent) as service advisers; on TV advertising I see female workers enjoying the driving experience and being at the drivers seat, even in the buying process. Nonetheless the car market is predominantly a male´s world I do not see women complaining about sexist advertising, even though a sales process more women driven would be more than appreciated, even by the men.

  2. Florence says:

    “Unfortunatly” I agree with most of the things you wrote in your article. Indeed I have several woman friends who were vey unhappy about their visits to a dealership. At the same time, I have to say that I see changes and it starts with the automotive companies. When I started my career in the automotive industry 15 years ago, I happened frequently that I was the only woman in meetings. In between woman employees represent more or less 50% of the staff at least in the company I work for. Advertizing tonality has also evolved these past few years and several campaign were rather ironic about “macho” men. I do believe that the automotive company which understands better what interests women in cars can be very successfull, because as you explain very well in your article, women are very good at influencing people in their purchasing process and recommending brand or products that they like. The company which succeeds in attracting a woman might not only gain one additional customer but much more potential customers who are connected to this woman…

  3. J. R. Caporal says:

    Hi Maurizio,

    We have the same problem in Brazil. Please look at my article that was published at Jornal da Tarde in 2004. Until now seems that the sales people did not realize that…

    All the Best!


    Posted on: 26/06/2004

    Some women are not afraid to face the traffic and highway driving pickup trucks, SUVs and other traditionally male models
    MARIANA Faraco

    Long ago, when the businesswoman Silvia Tozaki would get the children on board large cars, such as Caravan, Bonanza and summer vacation, and strangers. “They said I was brave, because I was always tiny and ‘disappeared’ in the car,” he says. Today with a Mitsubishi Pajero Sport, she does not call much attention in the streets. It is more and more women have surrendered to SUVs, pickups and other large vehicles, turned to traditionally male audience.
    Good visibility in traffic, safety, ability to overcome obstacles and even a certain sense of power are responsible for women looking for these cars. According to Ford, the last six years the participation of women in public sales of pickups, though small, has jumped from 9% to 17%. One of the most popular models is the Ranger. “Women appreciate the comfort inside and end up buying the truck for more male appeal, as the model conveys confidence and independence,” says Antonio Baltar, marketing manager of Ford pickups.
    In the case of Silvia and her Tozaki Pajero, this reasoning makes sense. “I am daring to drive a big car and the drivers always give me pass,” he says. “Funny thing is when I make a goal. The men on the street I can not think, so I leave the car and proud. In fact, if you give me a small model that I can not find parking,” laughs his manager, who so much like the car has even ventured into the rally.
    The passion for imposing models ended up affecting the daughter Luana, 18, who was presented with a Pajero TR4, sport-utility a bit smaller than the mother.
    The explanation for the fascination that these cars have on women is biological, according to automotive consultant Joseph Rinaldo Caporal Filho, director of Mega Dealer. “As has peripheral vision, the woman feels more comfortable and safe in a car top, while men generally prefer to focus only low cars ahead,” said Caporal.
    He also believes it is a social issue: “Women are joining in the labor market and have large car is a way to show she is taking up more space.”
    Younger women have also shown that prefer to drive in a position “privileged” in transit. At 21, Rita Cruvinel student driver is the “official” Toyota Hilux pickup average family. Surfer, she needs space to load the board when going to the coast, which can not in his Corsa. “The Hilux gives me more security and stability,” says Rita, who confesses that he feels more “powerful” in the car. “Once, my parents thought about selling the truck, but I reacted the same time: if so, they sell the Corsa” he says.
    Source: Jornal da Tarde / Official Car

  4. Maurizio Sala says:

    Florence, Fernando, Caporal… thanks for your prompt cooperation and for the personal point of view you gave to our discussion!

    I received dozens of comments and many friends gave me their own account.

    I would like to share and summarize with you the interesting comment of what my Friend Ralf Shollmeyer testimonied:

    “I strust a view thoughts – being for more than 20 years in the automotive industry I have to agree to your observations. However, there is a change in the recent years. We have an increasing number of female employees, executives and female focus. For example, in our company they have founded a women’s panel to discuss specific concepts for product, advertising etc. This is showing at least that there is awareness of the situation you perfectly have described in your article. Is this enough? Definetely no. In most of the automobile companies there is the fear that a female orientation means automatically a non-male orientation with specific image and volume effects. The maximum consensus is to “talk” about a family car which is reducing the female customer to the role of a mother or housewife. Cars are high-tec and this is still “boys talk” like soccer. Men have a problem to give up this territory – it seems to be important not to share everything with the partner just with good old boys in the well known locations. Even sales and marketing professionals within the automobile industry have a hard time to avoid this type of thinking and emotions. We need more female decision makers to overcome this problem. Will see if this continues. This is an interesting topic and if you dive deeper into it there would be more ideas and conclusions.”

    What you think about the idea of diving into deeper?

    I look forward to hear at you soon: I will send you other topics in the next weeks to put in motion this project!


    Have a great day!

    Maurizio Sala

  5. Maurizio Sala says:

    Another Friend, Rick, wrote this hilarious – but precise – comment:

    “I recently saw a TV clip that focused on female customers in the Middle East – may be Saudi Arabia – where only men can become sales clerks. Imagine the situation – male clerk selling a bra to a female customer. Interesting dynamic.”

    Cynical if you think to the ‘fundamentalist and hardliner’ world of the automotive…

  6. Maurizio Sala says:

    Guys! Here another comment I received from a Top Manager of a OEM:

    “Thank you for sharing this article with me.
    The world has changed and we made it happen.
    Your contribution is a living proof of it.”

    Really a pleasure and an honour for me and AutomotiveSpace to read these words!

  7. Maurizio Sala says:

    Helene wrote:

    “Thank you so much for sharing this interesting piece with me. I’ve found this very insightful. I’m personally not familiar with the Italian auto market, but gained so much from reading your article. I believe the connection between cars and women is a great angle.

    If I may I think a couple of verbatim from the Italian women telling their unexpressed needs for a car would add even more sparkles here… but this is already a great one and gives a lot of food for thought!

    Thanks again. Please keep your articles coming this way. I’m keen to learn more about Italy!”

  8. Maurizio Sala says:

    We received from Michihiro in Japan:

    “Your point is right on! Women is becoming a key for success in auto sales in Japan, as well. Tickle women’s need maybe a lead for motivation.”

  9. I agree with Maurizio…Really a pleasure and an honour for me and AutomotiveSpace to read these words!

  10. Ricardo Oliveira says:

    @ Maurizio – Another great article!

    Dealers of the same brand sell exactly the same product, in similar premises with a comparable service level (OEMs’ standards, oblige). Localization is no more a competitive advantage in the car buying process.

    Dealers are fighting with each other in a unstoppable price war because their proposals lack value. Dealers’ competive advantages don’t reach the Customer, so he or she always end up deciding on price.

    The solution is to innovate, and to create differentiation based on Customers’ needs and on Dealers’ talents. In the last World Shopper Conference (Lisbon, May 2011) we have presented a concept of a Dealer specialized in feminine public. Without plunging in a “rose environment” the idea was to recreate a Dealer based on feminine car users.

    Most of the times the solution is where Customer needs meets innovation.

    World Shopper Conference
    Next event: São Paulo 2011

  11. Maurizio Sala says:

    Ricardo! Thanks for your pleasant comment and for your thoughts. we are alligned! I look forward to meet at you during the XXI Congresso Fenebrave in San Paulo, next November. We will go into deep with these topics, discussing new ideas and searching solutions. Ciao. Maurizio

  12. Ashley says:

    This is so similar to attitudes and statistics in the U.S. Dealerships should hire more women! This helps understand how to communicate with female buyers. In addition to that automakers are creating programs aimed at getting more female employees and franchisers to help assist their female buyers.

  13. Maurizio Sala says:

    We received from Brenda, Huston US:

    “Good topic. Women in sales seem to be quite good with customers because we tend to be more experiential vs men who tend to be transactional during the sales process. Women speak the language of women. The traditional “wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am” approach to selling isn’t going to work most effectively with women. Connection, connection, connection… :-)”.

  14. Maurizio Sala says:

    Kurtis from Chicago, US gave his contribution:

    “Ashley, one of the most important things that have taken place in the dealership environment in the last hundred years is the wake up call that we have all experienced in the global economy. It has forced the once rigid and inflexible industry to get off its high horse and reevaluate everything about what it thought made it successful. The industry is ripe for quantifiable change because I believe that as the dealers watched their paradigms being destroyed, they became open to replacing the old guard and ideas with true substance that is sustainable.The good news is that we as a group are now open to conversation and constructive criticism that is accompanied by ideas and content that can be used for change. Great discussion point Ashley, as I am interested to here more people chime in with ideas that can address this important core issue that impacts the success of all dealerships that cater to women, and if I am not mistaken that would be all of them… Here is my recommendation, with women affecting major purchasing decisions like they do, effective people skills and not just female sensitivity courses needs to be inserted in the required learning plan of those involved in professional selling.”

    Thanks Kurtis for this precious point of view!

  15. Ashley says:

    I’m so glad this is commanding a lot of attention world wide!

  16. Maurizio Sala says:

    Jennifer Lopez & Fiat 500: still about women and Automobiles…

    I have proof that the Darwin “theory of species evolution” is… reversible!

    The Fiat TV spot on-air in the U.S. reiterates the old adage woman-car in a sexist key. At the agency they comment that a beauty behind the wheel makes the car more attractive; beside this, even for women, the car has a very strong passion charge: according to one study, three out of five women want to hear ‘I love you’ on board a car (?).

    Are we really sure that this statistic developed by men in agencies of men is pleasing to those (women) who buy 42% of the cars? I’m not sure at all, but this is my opinion!


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