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Cars: women’s new power toys

Cars: women’s new power toys
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First Published: Mon, Aug 22 2011. 10 22 PM IST
Updated: Mon, Aug 22 2011. 10 22 PM IST
The little woman needs a small, dinky car. Easy to manoeuvre, less harm likely on the road in case of a “womanly” error, and a great second car for the family. Right?
Wrong. Maybe this premise would have held water a generation ago, in India, or other developing countries. Then, women who drove or owned their cars were few and far between.
But things have changed dramatically since. Around 15-20% of Indians behind the wheel in this country are women and the number is growing. So, is the attitude of women to their cars.
An automotive blogger helpfully lists cars that women should drive—the Tata Nano, Nissan Micra and other small cars form the bulk of the list, with the Honda City being an exception.
But that’s seriously out of date. The urbanite is looking past dinky cars to check out what her US counterpart fancies on four wheels, and she likes what she sees!
She sees sense in the fact that Western women buy sporty mid-size, utility cars that are agile, offer high visibility, good storage, and low running costs, apart from being fun to drive.
Indian women, who do double duty as mothers and home managers and yet hold on to high-value jobs, want all this and more. They want cars that reflect their persona. They want cars that make a statement in the office car park, or when drawing up at a restaurant or a swish set party. That can accommodate kids and their baggage to and from school, can hold a week’s shopping…in short, cars that can change personality like their owners do, without looking the worse for it. So they shop brands, checking out what’s on offer, item by item.
So don’t be surprised to know that the Honda Civic, the Toyota Corolla and the Volkswagen Jetta are currying favour with women, hoping to replace the Hyundai Verna the Honda City and other current women’s favourites, in the metros at least.
According to Torsten Müller-Ötvös, chief executive, Rolls-Royce, women account for 10% of sales of the Ghost. Perceived for generations as a male car, the Rolls-Royce is suddenly attractive for just that reason. “Women are attracted to the car’s masculinity,” Ötvös said at a press meet in Mumbai, “it’s a statement, it’s all about power play.”
If Aamir Khan’s new Rolls-Royce made news, equally newsy is the story of the Singapore franchise holder who has a bespoke Phantom, that she designed down to the last detail.
Across China, West Asia and the US, 8-10% of owners of the Rolls-Royce Ghost are women—Paris Hilton and Cheryl Cole among them. Around 30% of China’s millionaires are women, and they not just buy, but drive the luxury cars they buy. Maserati says that 30% of its sales in China were to women (as against 10% in Europe) and has launched the car in bordeaux and red to suit the feminine fancy. Lamborghini and Ferrari claim 20% women owners in China.
Whether Maserati is looking at Indian women or not, women are surely evaluating the brand as a possible power toy!
Unlike men, who use the time in their cars to catch up on calls and reading presentations, women prefer to drive. And it is here that the market-savvy car manufacturer can cash in.
Nissan, which employs a woman specialist to analyse the differences between men’s and women’s mechanical, behavioural, physical and mental aspects to plan specifications attractive to women customers, is on the right track. Other car companies are doing small things to make the vital difference, larger doors for sari-wearing women at the wheel; courtesy mirrors on the driver’s side, too, for make-up retouches; little trays under seats for women who like to drive barefoot to keep their stilettoes out of harm’s way…
Way to go!
Despite all the carping about women drivers, the new market for big and luxury cars will be owned as much by women as men!
Sathya Saran writes on gender issues every fortnight.
Comments are welcome at otherviews@livemint.com
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First Published: Mon, Aug 22 2011. 10 22 PM IST
More Topics: Venus Ascendant | Sathya Saran | Car | Women | Men |