What Women Want in Cars and How Cars Will Be Designed for Them
By Aaron Crowe
Women are driving more, and they’re not happy about it.
More women (51 percent) than men have driver’s licenses in the United States, and while women are becoming more dominating in the car-buying process, they’re not so thrilled with what car manufacturers are offering them.
Those are the findings of two separate research reports by Frost & Sullivan, a consulting firm based in London.
Half of women globally are dissatisfied with their vehicles, while 74 percent feel they’re misunderstood by car manufacturers, according to Frost & Sullivan. As more women buy more cars, automakers will target them with cars designed for women.
What do women want in their cars?
Nissan, Ford and Volkswagen have already begun to aim new vehicles at women. Following a global trend for health and fitness, some are equipping vehicles with climate control systems for fine dust and ionising systems to filter out viruses and spores, high quality interior painting, and ergonomic seating.
The study identified eight key design trends for cars aimed at women:
- A customized, spacious cabin.
- High visibility around the vehicle and a sunroof.
- Green credibility and low CO2 emissions.
- Intuitive controls.
- Wellness features.
- High quality materials such as leather seating.
- Auto assist functions such as park assist and sensorial doors.
- Personalization options such as special pedals for long heels.
Another report by the same company found that cars will become more customized, particularly small city cars, with women influencing 80 percent of car buying decisions.
Some of the factors women deemed important when buying a car were spaciousness, safety, quality of materials, color and sustainability. They preferred options such as park assist, clear lighting for gas, easy access, integrated systems for mobile devices and entertainment, and will favor future cars with advanced systems such as autonomous driving, digital assistants and other health, wellness and well-being features.
Cars designed for women
To help sell the Porsche Macan to women, tennis star Maria Sharapova was hired by Porsche in April 2013 as a brand ambassador, since 85 percent of Porsche buyers are men. The car is big enough to handle a sizable Coscto haul but still drives like a sports car. The Macan has thousands of dollars worth of customization options, including colors such as “luxor beige” instrument dials, and noise-insulating privacy glass.
The 2014 Mercedes S Class has a cabin designed for “energizing fitness” with options such as a perfume atomizer, ionising air system and no plastic. There are 100 electric motors to move the seats, which have a massage option based on hot stone massage principles.
A place to put a purse
We talked with women about what they want in a new car, and one of the most popular requests was for a place to put their purse. Yvonne Miaoulis, a marketing manager for Baroan Technologies, reiterated what Rashida Jones wrote on Twitter: “Note to all people who design cars: Stop ignoring women’s purses and give us a place to put them that’s not our passenger’s lap.”
If a passenger is riding in the front seat, the handbag “has to go in the back or on the floor where it gets dirty or stepped on,” says Khadi Madama, who works at Yours Truly, a media services company.
“Ladies rely on their handbags to keep essentials that men simply just don’t need — and if they do need something — they rely on their wives or girlfriends to ‘just happen to have it’ in their bag,” Madama says.
Another popular request was heated seats, especially in snowy or cold climates.
“As we move into the winter months, I’m reminded how much I miss having heated seats,” says Megan Ingenbrandt, a public relations specialist for eZanga.com. “I personally enjoy this more than having hot air blowing directly at my face or body, because it’s more relaxing during your commute. Plus, there’s nothing worse than a cold leather seat.”
Linda Carlson, a marketing consultant in Seattle, not only wants heated seats in a new car, but a rear-window wiper, excellent visibility and power on hills. Carlson also likes having roadside assistance as part of the warranty, even for flat tires.
Horsepower was also important to Stephanie Hamilton, a communications manager at HappyFox, a helpdesk software provider. Hamilton says she used to own nothing but German cars for their horsepower.
She now owns a Jeep Wrangler Limited that has power everything: navigation, multimedia, heated seats and power outlets for charging iPads, phones and other devices.
Stacy Geisinger of Stacyknows.com already has a feature many people want in their cars — a backup camera — but Geisinger wants it to do more. “I really wish it took pictures so that when someone tailgates me, I can get a picture of their license plate and report them,” she says.
Federal law will require backup cameras on all vehicles built in and after May 2018, though they’re not required to be able to take photographs.
Car features aren’t the only areas where car companies are trying to attract more female customers. A pilot Nissan dealership in Japan is run entirely by women, with the intent to make the shopping experience more welcoming and seemless.
Female concierges are available to provide child care during car viewing appointments, and female mechanics are there to explain anything without unnecessary auto jargon.
Aaron Crowe is a journalist who covers the auto industry for CheapCarInsurance.net.