If you think only men – the traditional purveyors of ego through automobile – are the only ones who today take great pride in their wheels as status symbols, think again. Studies show us that increasingly, women want hot car models and cool wheels, automobiles that earn them a second look cruising down the highway.
But it’s not just studies telling us this. Car dealers and salesmen – and saleswomen – say the same. Take Teresa Lopez, a veteran of three different car dealerships in the metro New York-New Jersey area, who says that women are buying into the idea of a car as a statement of who they are or what they want to portray themselves to be.
“More than a dozen years ago, when I first passed my junior saleswoman years, I saw that women typically came in with the men in their lives and, when shopping for themselves, often looked at mini-vans, smaller SUVs, and sedate little sedans. Today,” says Lopez, “I see more women come in on their own, looking not just for great bang for their buck but also the same kind of hot models their husbands and boyfriends have wanted.”
She adds, “While we always saw a percentage of young, single, upwardly mobile career women looking for sleek, sporty models, we now see this with women past thirty, including those with families. They no longer buy into the idea that being a housewife or being a certain age classes them out of the sportier cars. Plus many of them have a second or third vehicle like an SUV or mini-van they can use for ferrying the kids around; they want something that looks for themselves driving to work or having lunch with friends.”
Yet, says Lopez and a few other dealers interviewed, today’s savvier female car buyer seems more likely than her male counterpart to avoid fancy extra packages like chrome wheels and fancy media device packages unless she sees a specific benefit. Also, today’s woman car shopper, sales staff report, is more apt to look at the miles per gallon rating. As a result, cites Lopez, she sees more female customers looking at sportier hybrids and cars with class that also get good mileage.
“Seriously, I wish I was working at a Toyota dealership right now because I can’t tell you how many women I see and know who want a Toyota Prius, regardless of the higher price tag,” cites Lopez, who prefers not to name which high-end dealer she sells for currently. “Our cars are great, but we only have one hybrid model on the floor right now. While we can’t keep these hybrid models in stock and it can take weeks to get fresh deliveries, I’d love to see us offer three to five or more hybrid models because they are soooo hot right now.”
Then there is Marty Rehmer, a fashion buyer who works in lower Manhattan but lives in Jersey City. A mother of a young teen, she says she was always buying whatever all the other mothers in the car pool had. That is, until last year, when she turned 40. That was the year when she decided it was time to get her first BMW, a class of car she decided was out of her orbit once she became a suburban mom.
“But my BMW has a very good safety rating for this kind of car and yet it looks so good. I don’t mind that other mothers give it a second look as I roll up in it and my daughter, thirteen, absolutely adores it. I let her pick the color,” adds Rehmer.