Automakers increasingly focused on female clients have teamed up with top designers to attend to female tastes and needs behind the wheel. Meanwhile, the ultimate marketing "Holy Grail" in the auto business is the car that seduces both m
Cars this summer were rolling through towns and cities in a flash of lime green, bright blue and sunflower yellow. Are we back to the color frenzy of the 1970's, or is it the result of a wise marketing strategy to target driving fashionistas?
Blackcurrant-colored exterior with purple glints, nude quilted leather that matches this season's make-up, all with an almost boudoir feel to it: This is the Nissan Micra signed by the Parisian stylist Lolita Lempicka, and it is the most accomplished current example of the feminization of an automobile. But it is not the only one.
The IKKS Polo, the dusty pink Miss Sixty Twingo or the Fiat 500 reinterpreted by Gucci art director Frida Giannini, are some of the latest models born from the collaboration between the car industry and the world of fashion. There is even the Lancia Ypsilon Elle, dressed in a glamorous pink, created with the famous women's magazine.
"The car industry is a century old and car manufacturers realized 10 years ago that women were actually driving and picking their own cars', jokes Hélène Fievet, product manager of the Micra for Nissan. "In France, half of the drivers are women. They have different expectations than men. They give much more importance to the design, the color, the size, the practicality and the price than to the motor type" she says.
For the Lolita Lempicka Micra, an exclusive French model created for fashion addicts, the French-Japanese automaker has multiplied the car's "chick magnets." In addition to a mirror on the sun visor above the wheel, a handbag holder allows any lady to keep her bag close by, on the passenger seat, without scattering its content at the first sudden stop. Even smarter is the parallel parking aid system that alerts you if the potential parking space you're passing is big enough. A navigation system allows you to avoid traffic jams and tells you, once you've reached your destination, the closest parking lot.
Automobile as accessory
"It is a kind of coach for the modern-day princess, for women who are looking for a car they can relate to like an accessory," Hélène Fievet says. "Still, some women also prefer crossovers (a car between a SUV and a sedan), such as the Nissan Juke, to project a different image of themselves." In other words, gendered cars are only created as limited editions. The Holy Grail lies somewhere else, in a car conceived to attract both men and women.
Citroën makes sure women are always involved in the decisions when a new model is created. "Forty percent of our French clients are women who come by themselves," explains Olivier Henry, in charge of the brand's future models design. "But even within the remaining 60%, the woman still intervenes in the choice of the family car, hence our search for a sort of car equality."
And that's how the DS 3 was born; a three-door compact car with numerous customization options: 38 color combinations available between the roof and the body of the car, without mentioning the stickers, from flowers to golden arabesques. Just a year after it was launched, the two-tone model counts for 90% of the sales -- a sign that color does not frighten male drivers anymore.
Still, women and men do not embrace car experience the same way. "Men are quite fetishist; the engine has special powers, measurable by its capacity and technology, and it is still a reflection of your social status," says Henry. "For women, a car means freedom, a place where they can escape from their daily responsibilities, but which needs to protect the environment and the people seating inside."
Still, the old notion of the (male) car as "chick magnet" is not dead, just evolving. Even though women are more drawn to versatile city cars, they also like more high-powered vehicles. Last month, the French magazine AutoPlus published a survey revealing women's favorite cars among a list of 60 "testosteroned" models. The first pick is one with character: the BMW Z4, followed by James Bond's Aston Martin DBS, the Ferrari California and the Maserati Gran Turismo. The magazine advises its male readers: "And if having an elegant coupé or an Italian sports car is not enough to get you a date…(try letting) a lady drive it."
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Photo - Nissan