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Gender Studies: Why Chicks Dig VW Beetles While Guys Like BMWs and Pickups

Cars are, not surprisingly, all bound up with gender. We've long known that certain rides are perceived as "chickmobiles," while others appeal mostly to dudes (Hummer, anyone?). These are comforting generalities, but recently released some survey data that proves it can be... illuminating to delve a bit deeper into what men and women really want in an automobile.

Roughnecks, rednecks and...yuppies?
According to the survey, men continue to love full-size pickup trucks: Ford (F) F-150s, Chevy Silverados, Dodge Rams, even Toyota (TM) Tundras. Hardly shocking, and probably attributable to professional as much as personal reasons -- men are over-represented in the construction trades, where a pickup is the price of entry, and the pickup you choose says more about you than pretty much anything else.

Men also like Corvettes, the prototypical midlife crisis sports car for Red America. But men also go for... 3-Series BMWs and Audi Sedans. You couldn't ask for a better characterization of the diverging nature of work in America. The 3-Series BMW is of course the favored chariot of entry level Hollywood agents and new arrivals to careers in finance. And if for whatever reason you lack enthusiasm for a Bimmer, well... Hello, Audi!

Ladies like cute, and also Saturn
Women go for design-y rides, such as the MINI and the Volkswagen New Beetle. In fact, in 2010, more than half of all New Beetles sold were sold to women, cementing its reputation as the reigning chickmobile. However, women aren't averse to an SUV -- as long as it relatively modest. Both the Jeep Compass and the Hyundai Tuscon were popular. Ferraris and Lamborginis were not (just don't tell Christie Brinkley).

What was striking about the data was women's loyalty to Saturn, a brand that General Motors (GM) left for dead years ago and finally killed in 2009. Marketing that was executed in the 1990s -- that, for example, Saturn dealerships were a no-haggle zone -- had an impressive shelf-life. Even as the brand was getting the axe in 2009, women continued to love it. And given that the vehicle underpinnings were by them high-caliber Opels, engineered in Europe, those girls were showing some consumer savvy.

News flash: men make stupid choices summed it all up rather nicely. According to Jesse Toprak, Vice President of Industry Trends and Insights:

The study shows that women car buyers are more cost-conscious and purchased fuel-efficient vehicles while male buyers were completely the opposite, purchasing vehicles that were either big and brawny, like a large truck, or chose a high-priced, high-performance vehicle.
So what does the auto industry take away from these results? Vindication, one hopes, of some of its more forward-looking strategies. Almost all global automakers are now building high-quality smaller cars that are priced to move, but that make few concessions on the style, technology, or safety fronts. These are not the econoboxes of yesteryear. Also, carmakers have gotten religion about fuel-economy and are -- both on their own and at the insistence of governments -- raising MPGs across their fleets.

And what about the guys?
Men are supporting some incredibly profitable products, however. Full-size pickups. Italian supercars. Rolls Royces. But they're faced with becoming niche players, something the auto industry is already wise to: it realized years ago that most family car-buying decisions are influenced by women. It's not that men don't matter. It's just that they don't matter as much as they used to. And the trend, gents, is unfortunately headed down.


Photo: Wikimedia Commons
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