FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Monday, June 13, 2005

A Woman's Place is Behind the Wheel

Last week we discussed the different ways in which men and women favor cars. Women, according to one survey, made sensible choices about efficiency and value, while men wanted raw horsepower.

Now, an article in the New York Times refutes that notion, up to a point. The article notes how middle-aged, empty-nester women are trading in their soccer-mom minivans for "reward cars" for themselves. Some might dismiss this trend as wealthy women having midlife crises. But the larger trend is that women are becoming more assertive about car shopping -- typically a stressful and intimidating process for anyone -- which is yet another manifestation of the Baby Boomer and Gen-X mindset.

The article, though, is of interest because it touches on a number of current and future trends:

  • Conspicuous consumption is alive and well... at least for those affluent enough to afford luxury cars.
  • Women over 40 are leading a trend toward smaller, sportier cars and away from minivans and SUVs -- cars that symbolize individual freedom rather than family obligation.
  • In addition to sports cars, women are also showing an interest in pickup trucks, both light and heavy.
  • Women are leveraging the Internet for information on car buying, and are spawning specialty websites such as WomanMotorist.com
  • Dealerships report that women are displaying more technical knowledge about cars. These women will do business with dealers who treat them with respect... and will leave the rest in the dust.

As with any emerging trend regarding Boomers, we are likely seeing only the beginning of this one. Car manufacturers who read this demographic right will respond with sporty, sexy cars... including models for those of lesser means. Perhaps the auto industry will come full circle. After all, in the 1960s, Ford offered young, first-time car buyers (Boomers) a car that combined sportiness with economy -- the Mustang. That in turn helped usher in the golden era of the muscle car, when you didn't have to be the richest person on the block to own the coolest car on the block.