I recently re-watched Frost and Sullivan’s You Tube clip about their detailed report, “Women as Automotive Customers”, and felt a bit of unease (not F&S’s fault, of course).
As one industry insider states in the film, the industry has traditionally made cars for men, and there is a huge case for it now to make cars for women. Okay….maybe. But how far will OEMs go in the battle to create a gender-specific experience, and how important will this be to Millennials? Will manufacturers go too far? Can they even go too far?
As a confirmed petrol-head who has been around cars all my life, I’m not sure yet where I stand on the idea that new generations of people want drastically different things from cars, and from the buying experience, depending on their gender.
Should the industry do more to appeal to female employees – and at the same time become more appealing to all employees, regardless of gender or age? Emphatically yes. I have created a working group, hosted an event, and been quoted in trade press about this, so I’m pretty upfront about where I stand here.
I think my issue is with two things: the idea of pretending that what’s good for women isn’t good for all modern customers (because when the automotive market talks about it, it generally is), and the more extreme end of the “pink and shrink” approach that might, just might, be bordering on the patronising (and only the market will deliver on this verdict).
According to the report, women are looking for “intuitive controls”, “simple interfaces” and the like in their passenger cars. That’s all very well: as with many innovations nominally undertaken for a particular market segment, the technology and ideas are usually sensible and might just appeal to all of us! So far, so much talk of “what women want” being little more than common sense.
But there are other things happening at the “girly” end of the market that don’t sit so well with me. Aside from the general idea of pinking and shrinking, I’m not sure about women-friendly stores, either.
Better product: more connected, greener, more intuitive. Good, why not? But cars “for girls” and car shops for girls? What remains to be seen is what the Millennials will actually make of all this. I want to see how the next generations of buyers vote with their wallets. It’s an interesting story to follow.
Speaking of Millennials, we’ve got a lot more to say about this fascinating market from an internal talent perspective – not just at our April event, but in future blogs too, so watch this space.