What a girl wants (in a vehicle)
PORTLAND, Ore. —
At this point, it shouldn’t shock anyone when I say that more than 80 percent of vehicle purchases are either made by or influenced by women. Smart automakers realize this, and more of them are looking to female customers and bloggers for feedback. Smarter automakers listen.
While the kinds of cars women want will vary by stage of life and living environment, there are a few prevalent themes I noticed at a recent Heels & Wheels event, which brought hot new cars and a bunch of women together.
Women are busy. They’re mothers and breadwinners, cooks and housekeepers, wives and athletes – often all at the same time. So features in vehicles that make life easier often win the day.
Like the hidden drawer underneath the passenger seat in the Buick Encore. IMHO, you can never have enough hidey-holes in a vehicle, and this one is kind of cool because it’s not obvious. Store your wallet or your cell phone in here, and even if someone breaks in your car, they probably won’t think to look there.
Another one: the release button for the armrest lid on the Aston Martin DB11. Press a button and it slowly slides open. Press the button again, and it slides shut. Silly and nonessential, but neat all the same.
We had one drop top on hand to test, the Land Rover Range Rover Evoque Convertible. The design might be a bit polarizing, but the fact that it is just as capable off-road as a regular Evoque and the top goes up or down in less than 30 seconds are important details.
In the age of modern technology, the fact that several of the vehicles had built in WiFi hotspots is clutch for those family road trips where streaming video games and movies keeps kids (and husbands!) from asking, “Are we there yet?”
The GMC Acadia, for example, offers a free 4G LTE trial hotspot, and then allows you to purchase a monthly plan through AT&T (which can be bundled with your phone plan if you use AT&T).
Another huge win I saw at Heels and Wheels: USB ports a plenty. Whether you have a family of 5 or a only an occasional passenger, you’re guaranteed to have multiple mobile devices that will need to be charged at some point – and perhaps at the same time. The Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid, for example, has 6 USB ports – including two in the third row!
Attention to detail
Women tend to be suckers for detail, and we buy enough shoes and handbags to know quality when we see it. From emblems to etched logos, creative design details make an impression. We found several examples of cool details on the vehicles assembled for Heels & Wheels.
The most obvious example comes from the DB11, which is entirely hand crafted. It takes more than 300 hours to put together a single DB11, and one seamstress constructs all the stitching for the same vehicle. The DB11 on hand had some of the finest leatherwork I’ve ever seen in a car – on the ceiling, on the door panels on the seats.
But even in a vehicle like the Infiniti QX30, you’ll see intricate stitching on the seats. And the Buick Encore – one of the more base vehicles on hand for the day -- had nice stitching and attractive black lacquer accents. Since 30 percent of new Buick buyers are young professional women, the attention to detail at every level makes sense.
The Jaguar F-Type SVR, similar to the DB11, has an incredible amount of detailing. Some of our faves included the etched SVR logo on the carbon fiber of the center stack, the quilted red leather interior and the leaping jaguar below the carbon fiber rear spoiler.
But even something as simple as a design “Easter egg” is noteworthy. Fiat Chrysler is notorious for putting things in its vehicles, and the one we found at Heels & Wheels was the plastic mat in the front of the Pacifica Hybrid center console – it has embedded silhouettes of Chrysler minivans through the ages. Clever and fun!
Whether a woman has kids or is single living in the city, she tends to do more research before buying a car and she wants more safety features to protect herself and her loved ones. While some of the higher-tech safety features are standard on high-end models, they’re starting to trickle down the lineups and even to the non-luxury brands.
In fact, backup cameras, which used to be luxury fare, are pretty much standard across the board these days. At Heels & Wheels, we saw everything from the very specific around-view cameras in the Nissan Rogue Sport to the basic back-up vision cameras in the Buick Encore – but every vehicle had one.
Some of the other cool safety features we saw included adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert. And this was on vehicles ranging from $30K to $230K.
One new and interesting safety feature that new parents will especially appreciate is the rear-seat reminder in the GMC Acadia. If you open the rear door before you hop in the driver’s seat and start the car, you’ll get a reminder on the behind-the-wheel gauges to check your backseat. This will help a multi-tasking, overworked person remember everything from groceries to kids in a car seat.
Of the 16 vehicles on hand to drive, 12 were SUVs. That was a telling statement about what women are buying these days. In fact, auto sales numbers released at the beginning of June show that even though overall car sales are continuing a downwards slide, light truck sales are continuing to climb.
The common theme I heard from women at the event is they wanted a vehicle without compromises.
Crossovers like the Nissan Rogue Sport, for example, target those who live in the city and want the functionality of an SUV but the maneuverability of a sedan. Something like the Volkswagen Alltrack is popular for a similar reason – it has all-wheel drive, easy parkability and space to put a couple bikes in the back for the occasional trek to a trail for a ride.
But then you have vehicles like the Volkswagen Atlas and the Lexus GX460, which specialize in carrying people over cargo. They are true family haulers that work for road trips and carpools.
The interesting thing about the assembly of SUVs at Heels & Wheels is they could easily cover every life stage and lifestyle. Single in the city? Rogue Sport. Sun-loving beach goer who occasionally tackles dunes and trails? Evoque Convertible. Have five kids and need to haul them and their stuff? Atlas. Looking for something functional yet fun to drive? QX30 or Jaguar F-Pace. Want something professional yet affordable? Buick Encore.
An everyday driver
At the end of the day women want something they can live with every day. And, surprise, not all women are the same. So, while I live in the city and want something that’s compact and easy to park, a lot of my cohorts at the event live in suburbs, have children and are looking for size and seating capacity.
Though our functions and faves may differ, there is one unifying theme: We want something with style that will keep us safe. It doesn’t matter if it’s a minivan or a sports car. Just give us clever features, nice details and enough choices to suit our lifestyles.