What do you think of when I say VW Bug, Miata and everything “Mini?” How about when I say Maserati, Bugatti or anything with a bed? No doubt you see a certain gender driving each one of these cars. The question is, “Are there cars meant for men but not women?” Or, is the notion in our head.
This idea got me thinking a few weeks ago. We were chatting about Mini Coopers on Horsepower For An Hour. At the end of the conversation we came to the conclusion that the Mini was more of a girl car than a boy car… nothing against the vehicle, it’s an excellent ride. Remember the deodorant commercial, “Strong Enough For A Man But Made For A Woman”? We concluded that this was true for the Mini Cooper as well as deodorant.
Then came the listener objections by email, text and Facebook posts. So I decided to take a closer look. After all, facts and stats can be stubborn things.
Winner. Winner. Chicken Dinner.
First, I began with a non-scientific survey. Walking around the Horsepower Halls, I asked random people to name two vehicles that were “chick cars.”
One model came up every single time…the VW Bug! Winner. Winner. Chicken dinner.
This was remarkable because of the complete transformation the Beetle went through since its introduction in America in the late ‘50s. “Back-in-the-day” the VW Bug was a very efficient, economical car. It became a trademark of hippies in the late 60’s. The Beetle was the ultimate college, concert going-conservationist car; ideal for the fraternity or sorority.
When Volkswagen re-introduced it in 1998, a clever marketing campaign was used—“More Power, Less Flower”. The re-imagined Bug was a hit. Ironically there was a “bud vase” in the center of the dash, (Sorry Dead Heads not THAT kind of “Bud”) making the new VW seem a bit girlie, and an easy choice as a “girl” car.
Determining a second choice in the unscientific survey was not as clear-cut, though. The other cars considered girl cars varied widely. That’s not surprising, however, when you look at the data from my more detailed research.
Facts and Stats About Boy Cars and Girl Cars
According to an excellent article in The Wall Street Journal, we see brands for boys are clearly differentiated. Ferrari, Maserati and Porsche and Jaguar appear on the list. Along with a healthy serving of trucks and… The Hummer. Male brand preference is as high as 93% for the Ferrari. It’s a rare woman, indeed, that drives one. Males’ brand preferences are narrow and tend to be expensive.
When we look at the brands women fork over the cash for the keys, the list varies widely. Mini, Kia and Honda win place and show. Honda, Nissan, Subaru, Suzuki and Hyundai make the list. Women are also crazy about a Mercury, Mazda and Mitsubishi to round out their top ten. The top choices for auto brands among women aren’t nearly as focused with the highest brand preference in the high 40% range. Women’s brand preferences are much more expansive and less expensive.
Interestingly, VW—as a brand—doesn’t appear on that list. But wait, there’s more…
Boy And Girl Makes & Models Of Cars
When we switch from looking at brands to looking at specific models, it was not surprising to see the new VW Beetle coming in a very strong first place finish. 60% of Beetle buyers are women. Yes, we do have a winner. But, just like in my unscientific survey, the other “chick car” models are not as cut and dry.
See the contrast to the male makes and models with preferences ranging tightly from 83% to nearly 88%.
The evidence suggests that women are more cost-conscious, fuel efficient and safe while boys… will be boys. Men like muscle and trucks. The evidence suggests men’s testosterone guides the choice when it comes to car purchasing.
With a few exceptions, however, when it comes to perceptions of a boy or girl car it’s mostly our imagination. Girls use their heads and boys… will be boys.